Apple’s begun manufacturing its Siri speaker ahead of WWDC

Apple has started manufacturing its Siri speaker ahead of the WWDC keynote next week.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has learned from people familiar with the matter that the new smart home appliance won't be ready to ship until later in the year. However, Apple could debut the gadget during next Monday's keynote presentation at WWDC.

People who have seen it told Bloomberg that the product won't have a touchscreen, unlike what KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo speculated.

Taipei-based AirPods manufacturer Inventec has been tapped as the sole manufacturer of the Siri speaker. Bloomberg previously reported that Apple employees have been secretly testing the device in their homes for several months.

The forthcoming Siri gadget reached an advanced prototype stage late last year.

Apple is reportedly seeking to differentiate the Siri speaker from Amazon Echo and Google Home by offering virtual surround sound technology, Apple Music and other integrations.

The Siri speaker would also act as a HomeKit hub to let users remotely control smart home appliances such as lights, door locks and window blinds, a feature that currently requires either a fourth-generation Apple TV or an iPad.

Here's an excerpt form the article:

Along with generating virtual surround sound, the speakers being tested are louder and reproduce sound more crisply than rival offerings, sources in the know said.

Apple has also considered including sensors that measure a room’s acoustics and automatically adjust audio levels during use, one of the people said.

“This will be a platform for developing Apple’s services,” says Gene Munster of Loup Ventures.

Gurman speculated the Siri device could be tucked into Apple’s $11 billion “Other Products” category along with other devices like Apple Watch, Apple TV, AirPods and Beats accessories.

Apple declined to comment.

Siri speaker mockup via iFunnyVlogger on Twitter.

Apple developing dedicated AI chip for future devices

Apple is working on a processor dedicated specifically to AI-related tasks, reports Bloomberg. Citing sources familiar with the matter, the outlet says the chip is known internally as the Apple Neural Engine, and its goal is to improve the way devices handle facial recognition, speech recondition and other AI-related tasks.

Currently, Apple devices handle complex AI processes with two different chips—the main processor and the GPU. This new chip would let Apple offload those tasks onto a dedicated module designed specifically for complex artificial intelligence processing, resulting in better battery life and performance.

The Apple AI chip is designed to make significant improvements to Apple’s hardware over time, and the company plans to eventually integrate the chip into many of its devices, including the iPhone and iPad, according to the person with knowledge of the matter. Apple has tested prototypes of future iPhones with the chip, the person said, adding that it’s unclear if the component will be ready this year.

It's no surprise Apple looking to move quickly with this AI chip. Other manufacturers, such as Google and Qualcomm, are already using dedicated AI modules, and artificial intelligence sits at the heart of two major spaces the company is rumored to be interested in: self-driving vehicles and augmented reality.

Source: Bloomberg

Hey Siri, make some room for Google Assistant on my iPhone

The rumors were true: the search giant Google today released a standalone Assistant app for iPhone to take on Siri. Available at no charge on App Store, it features a blend of the chat style functionality found in in the Google Allo version of Assistant and the voice-controlled version found on Android.

It even lets you call friends on Google Home or out on the town with your iPhone.

“Whether you need a reminder to pick up milk, help finding your travel photos or need to make a dinner reservation, your Assistant is ready to help,” says the company.

To get started with Assistant, press the microphone icon or start typing.

“And for when you want to see what you’ve previously asked, we’ll also soon add history within your conversation,” notes Google. And with an upcoming firmware update for Google Home, customers will be able to put responses to queries from Home's Assistant on a supported display, including your iPhone and even your TV (with Chromecast).

Apple users can use Assistant's chatbot-like capabilities as well as all of its interactive features without having to purchase Google's Pixel smartphone or another Android smartphone.

Here are a few things Assistant can help you with:

Make quick phone calls (“Call Mom”) Send text messages (“Text my bestie”) Send emails (“Email my boss the latest TPS report”) Set reminders (“Remind me to buy a birthday gift for Sarah”) Set calendar events (“Set a calendar event for dinner with Charlie tomorrow from 7-9”) Play music (“Play Jazz music on YouTube”) Navigate to places (“Get me directions home”) Ask it anything (“Will I need an umbrella today?”)

Google has promised to enhance Assistant with new features, including:

New chatbot abilities Integration with Google Lens technology

Google Lens will give Assistant for iPhone and Android some pretty cool camera capabilities with a little help from advanced artificial intelligence features. You'll be able to, for example, easily identify an object by pointing your phone's camera at it.

The company even demonstrated how Lens technology will permit Assistant users to snap up a photograph of a business's sign to quickly pull up useful information such as reviews, menu items, friend check-ins and other relevant data.

And in yet another example, Google demoed how Assistant could help Android users connect to a Wi-Fi network simply by taking a picture of a sticker on a router.

“If you see a marquee for your favorite band, you can hold up your Assistant, tap the Lens icon and get information on the band, tickets and more,“ said the firm.

Plus, starting today developers can build conversational apps for the Google Assistant on phones. In other words, soon you’ll be able to not only get help and answers from Google, but also from third party services.

The AI-powered helper will be rolling out to eligible Android phones in Brazilian Portuguese, French, German and Japanese, Google said. By the end of the year, Assistant will include additional language support for Italian, Korean and Spanish.

The company has more than 70 smart home partners supporting Assistant across Google Home, Android phones and iPhone, including August locks, TP-Link, Honeywell, Logitech and LG.

Assistant is already available on more than 100 million devices, said Google.

Grab Google Assistant for iOS for free via App Store.

The app requires an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with iOS 9.1 or later.