Apple Ups Its AI Game, Acquires Machine Learning Start-Up Turi For $200 Million

Apple is obviously trying to up its AI game to compete with the likes of Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook. The company just acquired Turi, a machine learning platform startup, for $200 million USD, which should help bring in some much needed IP. 

Turi began as an open-source project at Carnegie Mellon University in 2009, under the watchful eye of Professor Carlos Gusterin. Gusterin relocated to the University of Washington where he received an endowed professorship in machine learning from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. He eventually turned the open-source project into an independent business and dubbed it GraphLab.

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GraphLab raised $6.75 million in 2009 and $18.5 million in 2015 from Madrona Venture Group, a Seattle-based venture firm, and NEA, the primary backer of Tableau Software. The company went through several rebrandings until it finally settled on the name Turi this past month.

Turi lets developers build apps with machine learning and artificial intelligence. The company is one of several machine learning players in Seattle. The Pacific Northwest city is quickly becoming a nerve center of AI development and Apple has been building an engineering base there for the past two years.

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Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California

Apple has made fifteen acquisitions since 2015. Two of these purchases,  Perceptio and VocalIQ, are artificial intelligence/machine learning startups similar to Turi. Apple has also acquired Emotient, a facial recognition startup and Flyby Media, a spatial perception startup. Both of these acquisitions could also aid in AI development.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has noted that Apple is looking at making larger acquisitions. iPhone sales have been less than stellar this past year. Apple accounts for only 40 million of the 340 million sold smartphones in 2016 and tenuously holds a little over 11% of the current market. Profits dropped 27% to $7.8 billion USD during the most recently completed quarter, while revenue dropped roughly 14% to $42.4 billion USD. AI and other investments would hopefully increase and stabilize Apple’s profits.