Future HomePod Could Feature 3D Hand Gestures and Face ID

A recently published Apple patent application suggests that a future HomePod could feature support for 3D hand gestures, Face ID, and much more.

homepod still
While the patent application does not refer to the ‌HomePod‌ by name, it describes a voice-controlled assistant device such as a "countertop speaker" with various sensors and cameras that "gather hand gestures and other three-dimensional gesture input." This could include waving, clapping, and so forth.

Interestingly, the ‌HomePod‌ could have LEDs woven into the fabric to provide visual feedback for the hand gestures. The LEDs could also be configured to display alphanumeric characters through the fabric that change depending on time of day.

3D hand gesture support on the ‌HomePod‌ could utilize technology Apple gained from its acquisition of PrimeSense in 2013. In 2016, for example, Apple filed a patent for hand gestures on the Mac such as push, up, and wave that could be used to perform basic app interactions like scrolling through a menu.

Gestures described herein include focus gestures and unlock gestures. A focus gesture enables the user to engage (i.e., take control of) an inactive non-tactile 3D user interface. An unlock gesture enables the user to engage a locked non-tactile 3D user interface, as pressing a specific sequence of keys unlocks a locked cellular phone. In some embodiments, the non-tactile 3D user interface conveys visual feedback to the user performing the focus and the unlock gestures.

Examples of unlock gestures include an "up" gesture (e.g., raising hand 30 a specified distance), a sequence of two sequential wave gestures, and a sequence of two sequential push gestures, as described in detail hereinbelow.

PrimeSense's technologies were initially used by Microsoft for its Kinect motion sensor for Xbox. Apple later incorporated some of the technologies into the TrueDepth system that powers Face ID on the iPhone X and newer.

As for Face ID, the patent explains that the ‌HomePod‌ could identify users in the vicinity of the speaker using "facial recognition," as well as measure the distance of users to the speaker. This could allow for biometric authentication of Personal Requests, multiple user profiles, and more on a future ‌HomePod‌.

In late 2017, the president of Apple supplier Inventec said his company sees a trend towards both facial and image recognition technology being incorporated into smart speakers, without specifying which speakers in particular. This led Apple analyst Jeff Pu to predict the launch of a Face ID-enabled HomePod in 2019.

The exhaustive patent goes on to describe a variety of other potential features for a future ‌HomePod‌, such as ambient light sensing, displaying a sunshine icon if sunny weather is forecast, displaying the logo of a sports team that wins a game, heart rate sensing, and much more.

One quirky feature mentioned is an emoji-based avatar that would adapt to a user's mood or actions. If the user is sad, for example, the emoji may reflect sadness. Or, if a user asks the ‌HomePod‌ for information on purchasing a birthday gift, the speaker may display a happy emoji to present results.

The patent application was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in July 2017, six months prior to the launch of the current ‌HomePod‌, but it was only published in late January due to a standard 18-month confidentiality period.

Apple files numerous patent applications every week, of course, and many of the inventions do not see the light of day. Patents are also very detailed, encompassing many possible ideas, even ones that Apple might not have any plans to advance. So, the exact implementation if any remains to be seen.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Tag: patent
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Don't Buy)

Top Rated Comments

Soccertess Avatar
29 months ago
All that brilliant tech, no Bluetooth? No aux in? Doesn’t work with anything but Apple music (unless you use airplay)

Cool idea, Tim - you can still shove it.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
martyjmclean Avatar
29 months ago
We didn’t even need the first HomePod, let alone one with FaceID. I can’t even imagine how/what/why you’d use it...
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
isomorphic Avatar
29 months ago
"Almost no one bought our first smart speaker because it was wildly overpriced for what people perceived the market to be."

"Right. So let's add a bunch of expensive features for the next model. That way everyone will know we're not in the 'cheap smart speaker' market. We'll sell dozens!"
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Relentless Power Avatar
29 months ago
We didn’t even need the first HomePod.
Need? Maybe no one ‘needs’ the HomePod. Let’s not just dismiss a product because you don’t need it, others simply want it, because it is an excellent piece of tech with impressive sound.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
twocents Avatar
29 months ago
Its funny now my first thought on new products aren't the new features but what the price will be
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
timborama Avatar
29 months ago
HomePod will slowly gain momentum.
HomePod will die. And join Apple HiFi in the big junk pile in the sky.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple watch ecg

Apple Watch Likely to Gain Blood Pressure, Blood Glucose, and Blood Alcohol Monitoring

Monday May 3, 2021 4:03 am PDT by
The Apple Watch may gain the ability to measure blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood alcohol levels, according to newly-revealed information about one of Apple's chosen business partners. Apple has been revealed to be the largest customer of the British electronics start-up Rockley Photonics, The Telegraph reports. Rockley Photonics has developed non-invasive optical sensors for...
airtags teardown tile mat galaxy smarttag

iFixit Shares AirTag Teardown Revealing 'Impressively Compact' Design Compared to Tile Mate and Galaxy SmartTag

Sunday May 2, 2021 4:54 am PDT by
iFixit has shared the first of its two-part series in tearing down Apple's AirTag item tracker, revealing that Apple had to make impressive design decisions to achieve its small design, including rethinking the speaker layout. For comparison, iFixit compared Apple's AirTag to the Tile Mate and the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag. Compared to the competition, AirTag is the smallest in size, with the...
facebook instargram updated att prompt 1

Facebook and Instagram Ask Users to Enable App Tracking in Order to Keep Services 'Free of Charge'

Sunday May 2, 2021 1:22 pm PDT by
As a way to convince users to enable tracking across other apps and websites, Facebook is deploying the tactic of telling users that they must enable tracking as part of the App Tracking Transparency framework in iOS 14.5 if they want to help keep Facebook and Instagram "free of charge." App Tracking Transparency or ATT is the newest privacy feature to come to iPhone and iPad devices as part ...
Flat 2021 MacBook Pro Mockup Feature 1

Mini-LED Display Production Improving for Redesigned MacBook Pro Models Later This Year

Monday May 3, 2021 8:33 am PDT by
Apple supplier TSMT, a key vendor involved in the production of mini-LED displays in the newly announced 12.9-inch iPad Pro, has been able to address technical challenges for the production of mini-LED displays to be used in the upcoming 14 and 16-inch redesigned MacBook Pro models. As reported by DigiTimes, TSMT had initially been facing production constraints with the circuit board and...
Foldable iPhone 2023 Feature Yellow

Kuo: Apple to Launch 8-Inch Foldable iPhone in 2023

Sunday May 2, 2021 8:43 pm PDT by
Apple is working to launch a foldable iPhone with an 8-inch QHD+ flexible OLED display in 2023, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a note to investors that was seen by MacRumors. Based on our latest industry survey, we forecast that Apple will likely launch a foldable iPhone with an 8-inch QHD+ flexible OLED display in 2023, with SDC as the exclusive display supplier and Samsung Foundry...
iOS 14 on iPhone feature emergency

Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 14.5.1 With Fixes for App Tracking Transparency Bug, WebKit Security Issues

Monday May 3, 2021 10:04 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 14.5.1, minor security updates that come just a week after the release of the iOS 14.5 update. There is also a companion watchOS 7.4.1 update for Apple Watch and an iOS 12.5.3 update for older iPhone and iPad devices that don't support Apple's latest operating system versions. According to Apple's release notes, the update fixes a bug with App Tracking...
General Music and AirPod 3 Feature

Rumor: Apple to Announce Third-Generation AirPods and HiFi Apple Music Tier in 'Coming Weeks'

Saturday May 1, 2021 3:57 am PDT by
Citing sources within the music industry, Hits Double Daily reports that Apple is preparing to launch a new HiFi Apple Music tier in the "coming weeks," which will come alongside the release of the rumored third-generation AirPods. According to the report, the new tier, which will offer high-fidelity music streaming, will cost the same $9.99 monthly subscription as the current individual...
Top Stories 58 Feature 1

Top Stories: iOS 14.5 Released, AirTag Launch, New iMac and iPad Pro Pre-Orders

Saturday May 1, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
After nearly three months of beta testing, Apple this week finally released iOS 14.5, the company's biggest update since the iOS 14 launch last September. One of the main new features included in the update is support for AirTags, Apple's item trackers that also finally became available this week some two years after their existence first leaked. Apple this week also began taking orders for...
tile sticker e1570533758981

Tile CEO: 'We Welcome Competition From Apple, But We Think It Needs to Be Fair'

Tuesday May 4, 2021 9:51 am PDT by
Just after Apple announced its AirTags, Tile CEO CJ Prober relayed his concerns about competing with Apple in the tracking space, and said that Tile would ask Congress to investigate Apple's business practices specific to Find My and item trackers. Prober this week did an interview with Bloomberg, where he further expanded on Tile's complaints about Apple and why he feels that Tile is...
apple music album cover art

iOS 14.6 Beta 1 Code Hints at Upcoming HiFi Apple Music Support

Saturday May 1, 2021 10:41 am PDT by
Apple is laying the groundwork for adding HiFi support to Apple Music which would offer Apple Music subscribers and owners of compatible devices, such as certain models of AirPods, access to high-fidelity audio streaming, according to code within the iOS 14.6 beta discovered by MacRumors. Earlier today, a report claimed that Apple will announce a new $9.99 per month Apple Music tier that...