New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

In the report titled "Apple's Famed Audio Director, Inventor of Lucasfilm THX Sound System, Invents Next-Gen Audio System" we noted that Apple claimed that their new audio system could be for a room within a house and right on through to an amphitheater. Amazon sells the main version of the Echo for $180; Google's Home speaker goes for $130.

HomePod is cylindrical, just under seven inches tall, and covered in a 3D mesh fabric.

"There is so much momentum building around these speakers that it would be hard for Apple not to come out with one", said industry analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy. The speaker also has spatial awareness and energy detection technology so that it can automatically adjust the speaker's volume depending on how far away the listener is from the device. That means the device can do anything from playing music to dimming the living room lights when users talk to it.

Naturally, it's created to work seamlessly with Apple Music, but we'll have to wait and see whether it's quite as smart when playing with the likes of Spotify. "I like this song", "What was the top song in 1983?" and "Play more like this".

With Apple doing small things to make AI more visible and powerful across more of its devices, the company appears to be acknowledging people's continued use of impressively smart apps like Google Translate and the Google App. Cook has always been bullish about the prospects for augmented reality, and Apple is working on smart glasses, people familiar with the plans have said. When it does hear the command, it sends an anonymous Siri ID to Apple to fulfill your request, and all communication is encrypted.

The speaker will sell for about $350 in December in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia. Next year, it will be available worldwide. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops.

It's fair to say that Apple's HomeKit platform has been a little slow to get off the ground, but this Siri-powered speaker should give it a boost.

More news: New Kaby Lake iMacs arrive from Apple

Siri, meanwhile, is getting a new voice. Additionally, Siri will be able to chime in by answering follow-up questions, and offer multiple results to queries.

A major new capability impacting business users is translation. That makes it arguably the smartest speaker you can buy, but it remains to be seen whether or not that makes it the best.

New indoor maps of areas like malls and airports indicated that Apple might be laying groundwork to display information over images of those places in the future. Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, says the price is good for a high-end audio device. Federighi highlighted stories about Iceland after a search in Safari for holidays to the island. And if you tap into an article about locations in Iceland, Siri will remember them, and suggest them as you type in messages.

Apple is also updating the operating software for its Apple Watch, including new watch faces, more personalized alerts that use machine learning to tailor information to you based on your routines and tastes. Siri also has a new screen in the Apple Watch which presents data and information that may echo earlier behavior at a similar time of day or the week.

Cook used the Apple keynote to show off new iPad and Mac computer models, as well as provide glimpses at coming versions of the software powering the technology titan's devices.

HomePod includes Siri voice integration and will function as a "home assistant", according to Schiller.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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