Apple has hired Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Ruslan Salakhutdinov as its first director of artificial intelligence research to bolster its machine learning capabilities.

Salakhutdinov announced on Monday (17 October) via Twitter that he is joining the Cupertino company, linking to an open position at Apple through which interested researchers can apply to join his new department's team.

Apple's job description for machine learning research scientists reads: "We are looking for exceptional hands-on research scientists with a proven track record in a variety of machine learning methods; from the realms of deep learning, reinforcement learning, unsupervised learning, and computer perception."

The company notes that accepted applicants will be joining "a world-class, multidisciplinary team" and participate in "cutting-edge research in deep learning, machine intelligence, and artificial intelligence" to solve "real-world, large-scale problems."

Salakhutdinov will remain in his current post as an associate professor at CMU while working at Apple. Having published at least 42 papers on machine learning since 2009, he primarily researches neural networks and deep learning - a branch of AI technology that allows machines to learn and train themselves by analyzing vast quantities of data to find patterns.

Some researchers responded to Salakhutdinov's tweet to express their concerns over whether Apple, who has been traditionally secretive about its AI and machine learning efforts, will be more vocal and collaborative about it moving forward.

Apple's latest hire comes amid criticism that the company is still playing catch-up in the AI race with tech rivals Google, Facebook, Amazon and others who have been pouring resources into AI research for years and continue to bring in AI experts and startups to bolster their research.

In September, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and IBM announced the launch of "Partnership on AI," a group dedicated to developing standards for future researchers in the field and help the public better understand the sector and its benefits.

In an effort to ramp up its own AI research and development, Apple has acquired three machine learning companies - Perceptio, Turi and Tuplejump - in recent months.

Chief executive Tim Cook recently told Nikkei Asian Review that Apple's R&D facility in Yokohama, Japan, is expected to be completed in December, describing it as a centre for "deep engineering" that will be "very different" from the facility planned for China.