Apple Inc. announced the closure of its San Diego-based Data Operations Annotations team, which is responsible for enhancing the accuracy of Siri by listening to user queries. Employees were informed that they would need to relocate to Austin and join the Texas portion of the team or face termination.
According to the notification, employees have until the end of February to decide whether they will relocate or not. Those who choose not to relocate will face termination on April 26. The sudden move surprised the San Diego staff, as they were previously led to believe that they would be relocated to a new Apple campus in the area.
Many affected workers have expressed their unwillingness to move to Austin, fearing limited job opportunities without an engineering background. The San Diego employees specialized in improving Siri in multiple languages, including Hebrew, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and French.
This unexpected decision has the potential to result in the departure of several dozen workers from the company. To incentivize relocation, Apple is providing a $7,000 stipend for employees willing to move. On the other hand, those who choose to leave will receive four weeks of severance pay, with an additional week for every year worked, along with six months of health insurance coverage.
The team that is being disbanded had previously employed contractors to assess the accuracy of Siri queries, but this practice became optional for customers in 2019. As a result, these contractors were replaced with full-time employees.
Despite the closure of the San Diego team, Apple is not abandoning its voice assistant technology. In fact, a small number of employees from the affected group have already started assisting the company with the development of artificial intelligence products based on large language models. Apple plans to announce these advancements in June.
The closure of the San Diego-based Data Operations Annotations team highlights the constantly evolving nature of the industry. It also raises questions about the future role of voice assistants and their potential integration with artificial intelligence technologies.
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