Apple 'Pressing Ahead' Into Prototype Testing for Echo-Like Smart Home Device Powered by Siri

Apple is said to be "stepping up plans" for its connected smart home device powered by Siri, which would rival the technology that Amazon has made popular in its Alexa-enabled Echo speaker system (via Bloomberg). After two years of research and development, the Apple device is said to be in prototype testing, but because Apple hasn't officially finalized any plans it "could still scrap the project."

Similar to Echo, the Siri device is said to be able to control smart home accessories like lights, locks, and curtains all through voice activation, and would most notably be the first new piece of Apple hardware introduced since the Apple Watch, and the iPad before that. To compete with Amazon -- and Google's own similar device called "Google Home" -- Apple will introduce "more advanced microphone and speaker technology," according to people close to the project. This could potentially include an ecosystem-wide upgrade to Siri's current functionality.

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Beyond the home device, Apple is researching new ways to improve Siri on iPhones and iPads, two people said. With an initiative code-named “Invisible Hand,” Apple hopes to give users the ability to fully control their devices through a Siri command system within three years, one of the people added. Currently, the voice assistant is able to respond to commands within its application, but Apple’s goal is for Siri to be able to control the entire system without having to open an app or reactivate Siri.

For example, a user would be able to ask their iPhone to open a web page and then share it with a friend without the need to ever launch the Siri interface. Other examples from Apple’s current research include being able to print a PDF by speaking “print” while reading it or saying “help” in order for the system to help the user navigate a particular task or application. Apple has also been researching opening this ability to third-party apps, the person said.

A few prototypes in testing are said to include technology related to facial recognition, potentially fueled by Apple's acquisition of Faceshift and Emotient, "which may help the device act based on who is in a room or a person’s emotional state." Otherwise, the device will be able to perform all of the Siri actions expected of the personal assistant, including responding to text messages, playing music, searching the internet, and more. Apple Maps integration is a possibility, which Apple is considering so Siri could alert you exactly when to leave the house for an appointment.

Before it moved to a standalone speaker unit, Apple considered introducing Siri into a voice-activated feature on the new Apple TV, but the company decided on a more reliable button addition to the Apple TV remote over shouting commands across a room to activate Siri. In its original testing in 2014, Apple crafted a small and a large version of the Siri speaker, said to be like the Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot, "but those early efforts may not translate into a final product."

The prototype phase has advanced to the point of Apple engineers testing the device in their own homes, according to the individuals with knowledge of the project. As Bloomberg pointed out, while this is not an exact measure of when the Siri speaker might launch, Apple CEO Tim Cook was known to test out the original iPad at his home "for roughly six months before its introduction." Apple employees also tested out the fourth-generation Apple TV about a year before its launch in 2015.

Ultimately, the Siri speaker is described as a way for Apple to "augment the iPhone," and drive sales for the company's devices following a year where it faced dwindling returns for its iPhone line. Its most recent device launches for the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, and Apple Watch Series 2 have all faced the expected initial shortages most Apple products encounter in their first few weeks on the market, but Apple has chosen not to reveal first weekend sales numbers for the iPhone 7 because it feels the results are "no longer a representative metric" due to demand outweighing supply.

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Top Rated Comments

Rob_2811 Avatar
101 months ago
"Hey Siri, Turn the lights on"

"Here is what I found on the web for Hey Siri turn the lights on.."
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jmpage2 Avatar
101 months ago
"Me too, me too, me too!!!"

-Apple CEO Tim Cook

Too bad Siri absolutely sucks at doing anything useful and this thing would be an epic flop.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DevNull0 Avatar
101 months ago
You know what would be better than a copycat of a silly Amazon toy?

AN MBP WITH A CPU NEWER THAN 2013!
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
smacrumon Avatar
101 months ago
This feature could be built into current devices. Why does anyone need a separate device? It could be built into Apple TV, iMac, Mac mini, it could, surprise, surprise, be built into iPhone! Apple doesn't need to follow the fads. This Amazon device will be in the e-waste landfill soon enough.

As for the quote:

"Ultimately, the Siri speaker is described as a way for Apple to "augment the iPhone," and drive sales for the company's devices following a year where it faced dwindling returns for its iPhone line."
The best way to face dwindling returns on the iPhone line could easily be resolved by introducing an ALL-NEW iPhone, in all three sizes 4-inch, 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch sizes, dropping the protruding camera and finally dropping the antenna lines.

Apple needs to get back to making great iPhones, not shiny third generation iPhone 6 models.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
leroypants Avatar
101 months ago
Tim Cook: That Echo device is great, lets steal the idea and tell people our device is "magical", and then threaten Amazon with patent lawsuits.

Jony Ivy: On it.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rogifan Avatar
101 months ago
The best way to face dwindling returns on the iPhone line could easily be resolved by introducing an ALL-NEW iPhone, in all three sizes 4-inch, 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch sizes, dropping the protruding camera and finally dropping the antenna lines.

Apple needs to get back to making great iPhones, not shiny third generation iPhone 6 models.
You really think somebody isn't buying an iPhone because of a camera bulge or an antenna line? Especially when most people stick their phones in cases right away? BS. People aren't buying phones as often because the phones now are really good and the leaps in technology improvements are less and less. Also a lot of Apple's iPhone growth was due to new markets, new carriers coming on board. That also is slowing down. None of that has to do with aesthetics.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)