Apple’s former chief designer Jony Ive in reportedly discussions with OpenAI to build AI hardware consumer device, backed by Softbank
There is speculation surrounding an AI hardware project involving Sir Jony Ive, Apple’s former chief design officer and Sam Altman’s OpenAI.
The Financial Times reported that Sir Jony Ive is in “serious” discussions with OpenAI to build the “iPhone of artificial intelligence,” aided by over $1 billion in funding from Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son.
Since his departure from Apple, Sir Jony and his design house LoveFrom have been involved in a number of hardware projects – most recently a special edition record turntable from a British home audio technology supplier called Linn.
AI hardware project
The FT report shed a few details about the AI hardware project between Sir Jony and OpenAI.
According to the report by the Financial Times, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is looking to use Ive’s design firm LoveFrom to develop OpenAI’s first consumer device, with the two men reportedly having discussed what such a product would look like during brainstorming sessions at Sir Jony’s San Francisco studio.
According to three people familiar with the plan, Sir Jony and Sam Altman are aiming to create a device that provides a “more natural and intuitive user experience” to interact with artificial intelligence.
Both men have apparently taken inspiration from how the touchscreen technology on the original iPhone helped revolutionise our interaction with the mobile internet.
And it seems as though there is already serious financial backing for the project, after it was reported that Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son is offering funding for the effort. Indeed, Son has reportedly pushed for British chip designer ARM (which Softbank holds a 90 percent stake in) to play a central role in the project.
According to the Financial Times’ sources, the project with OpenAI could allow Sir Jony to help create an interactive computing device that’s less reliant on screens – after Sir Jony previously expressed concern about the compulsive mobile use among many people.
However it should be noted that the Altman, Ive, and Son project is reportedly still in its early stages and several different ideas for the device are still being considered.
Indeed, the project has not been confirmed and exact details surrounding the project are slim. That said, the discussions are said to be “serious.”
Sir Jony Ive had for years worked side-by-side with the late Steve Jobs at Apple, and his contribution to Apple’s revival could not be overstated, according to CEO Tim Cook.
Steve Jobs considered Sir Jony as one of his closest friends and once declared that the lead designer and executive “has more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me.”
Sir Jony designed Apple’s breakthrough products – ranging from the 1998 iMac G3 to the 1st-generation iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad.
Sir Jony and Apple severed their last ties to each other in July 2022, when Apple ended its consulting deal with Sir Jony, despite promising to work with him “long into the future.”