The first tidbits about Apple’s alleged Amazon Echo competitor were around the time of WWDC back in May. Then, the reports began to dwindle and we haven’t heard much sense.
Now, Bloomberg is reporting that the product is now in early prototyping stages and is being tested outside of Apple’s labs.
The report says work on the product began over two years ago.
Started more than two years ago, the project has exited the research and development lab and is now in prototype testing, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing unannounced Apple projects. Like Amazon Inc.’s Echo, the device is designed to control appliances, locks, lights and curtains via voice activation, the people said. Apple hasn’t finalized plans for the device and could still scrap the project.
Facial recognition is also reported to be available.
Apple has acquired the facial recognition startups Faceshift and Emotient over the past two years, which may help the device act based on who is in a room or a person’s emotional state.
The company also considered building similar functionality into the Apple TV but decided not to follow through on the idea.
Before setting its sights on a standalone speaker, Apple attempted to integrate the functionality of an Amazon Echo-like device into the Apple TV, three people said. This would have allowed users to shout commands from the couch to the TV box. Those efforts were abandoned in favor of putting the voice-command features into a remote control when the latest set-top box shipped in October 2015.
Apple engineers are said to be testing the device in their own homes, something Apple has done in the past. For example, the fourth-generation Apple TV was reportedly tested in a home for around a year before launching, and Tim Cook tested an iPad six months in advanced.
Apple’s end goal is to have Siri available wherever you are, without needing to open an app or reactivate Siri.
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.
Amazon has been on a roll with its Echo intelligent speaker with now multiple variations available to customers.