Bloomberg: Apple’s Echo-like Siri appliance is now in prototype testing

By , Sep 23, 2016

Amazon Echo

Apple’s rumored Amazon Echo-like Siri hardware has exited the company’s research and development lab and is now in prototype testing, Bloomberg reported Friday. The project started more than two years ago, but Apple is now “pressing ahead” with the development of its unnamed Siri-driven smart home appliance after Amazon’s Echo proved a surprise hit, even to Apple engineers working on the project.

The rumored Apple-branded smart-home device is based on the Siri voice assistant and should have the following voice-driven features and capabilities:

  • Control home appliances, locks, lights, curtains and other HomeKit devices
  • More advanced always-on mic and speaker than Amazon Echo or Google Home
  • Facial recognition sensors to see who’s in a room and determine a person’s emotional state
  • Built-in speaker for wireless music playback
  • Built-in Siri would process many of the commands available on the iPhone

The Information originally reported that Apple is working on an Amazon Echo-style device, while CNET said the device would include cameras.

As for the built-in Siri features, the article gives some examples:

For example, users may be able to ask the device to read e-mails, send text messages and Tweets, and stream content from Apple Music. Apple has also considered integrating mapping information into the speaker, another person said, potentially allowing the device to notify a user when it’s time to leave the house for an appointment.

Apple started working on the project in 2014, when it launched HomeKit.

Early versions of the gadget had built-in speakers with “proprietary surround sound technology.“ Apple tested at least two models of the Siri hardware, a larger device and a smaller one, and even set up a small home theater to test the prototypes.

“Now that the device has entered the prototype stage, Apple engineers have begun secretly testing it in their homes,” one of the people said.

The report goes on to note that Apple originally wanted to integrate the functionality of its rumored Amazon Echo competitor into the Apple TV box itself before setting its sights on a standalone speaker, resulting in the Apple TV team baking Siri voice-command features into the Siri Remote itself instead of the set-top box.

Apple hasn’t finalized plans for its Siri device and could still scrap the project, according to people familiar with the project who spoke to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.

Source: Bloomberg

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  • Srv Rungta

    they should just integrate all those features in the apple tv …. why make a separate device when one thing can do everything…

    apple should only make a handful of products. That’s what steve did after he came back to apple, didn’t he?

    • nonchalont

      It wouldn’t be as easily portable since attached to your tv unless you have multiple units, and do I need my tv on always to hear Siri? Do I need my tv on to play music via Bluetooth? A standalone speaker would be nice to easily carry into the garage while I work on the car or outside my home to use as a Bluetooth speaker.

      A standalone speaker would make sense.

    • Because wireless speaker?

      • I sort of agree with Srv. The Apple TV is pretty much already a hub for just about everything why not just add a speaker. The portablitily is the only downside. Unless its a wireless Apple TV then they’re on to something..

  • Dao Sasone

    Only if speech recognition is more advanced. We all know sometimes these virtual assistants cant understand what your asking. And a multiple wireless mic would be great instead of having to be so close to the speaker. Especially if your playing loud music you definitely have to scream.

  • therealjjohnson

    Unneeded. The Apple version or the Amazon version. Why would I not just use “Hey Siri” and use the one of many bluetooth speakers?

    • Scott Johnson

      That’s what I thought too, but then I got the Amazon Echo as a gift and it is definitely a game changer. You don’t have to have your phone around and don’t have to manipulate the settings on your phone. If I’m sitting on my couch and want to hear a podcast or a station from iheart radio, I just tell Alexa to play “whatever” and she immediately brings it up. No other device required.

      • therealjjohnson

        I do that currently with “Hey Siri” while its connected to my Apple TV and surround sound. I assume the echo has to be in voice reach, so does my phone. I guess its cool an all, but I just feel like its about to be a giant roll out for something that we already kinda have now.

      • Scott Johnson

        The deal with this also is that it’s portable. If I want to go to the garage and work, I just take the speaker/Echo with me and don’t have to bother with my phone (although who doesn’t keep their phone with them at all times 🙂 ) It is convenience and portability, but I certainly see your side too.

  • Rook HD

    the Amazon echo is fun. But unless you’re planning on doing home automation, the Echo itself is a waste of money. The new Echo Dot is cheap enough at $50 for some fun. But a Google device would be much more useful.