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Former Apple and Tesla engineer will try to simplify Google's AI efforts

Lattner developed Apple's Swift programming language, with the hire possibly simplifying Google's AI efforts on the backend and consumer side of things.

Published onAugust 15, 2017

A poster promoting Google AI showing some text and a circuit board.

Google might have already been making significant headway with its artificial intelligence efforts, but those efforts will likely get boosted with the hire of former Apple and Tesla engineer Chris Lattner.

The name might not ring a bell, but Lattner was a prominent figure in the world of Apple software. He joined the company in 2005 before eventually becoming a member of Apple’s senior executive leadership team. More significantly, Lattner developed the company’s Swift programming language and was one of the main drivers behind Swift Playgrounds, which introduced the programming language to a younger audience.

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Lattner left Apple in January of this year and joined Tesla that same month to help build the company’s Autopilot technology. It was quite the hire for Tesla CEO Elon Musk, but it did not last very long – Lattner left after only five months on the job. Lattner did not divulge exactly what led to his leaving Tesla, but said that he and Musk agreed they did not work well together:

In the end, Elon and I agreed that he and I did not work well together and that I should leave, so I did.

Fast forward to today, and Lattner agreed to join Google Brain, Google’s research unit. Lattner will reportedly work on TensorFlow, which is designed to simplify the search giant’s AI programming, though no other details about Lattner’s role were given.

I’m super excited to join Google Brain next week: AI can’t democratize itself (yet?) so I’ll help make it more accessible to everyone!
— Chris Lattner (@clattner_llvm) August 14, 2017

Even so, this is a solid hire for Google and could lead to simpler TensorFlow software or lower device hardware requirements to run AI software. It could also be that none of that will happen, but given Lattner’s track record until now, Google is willing to make this bet with a glass half full.

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