Apple's HomePod speaker brings Siri into the living room

The tech giant unveiled its new seven-inch, compact HomePod at its Worldwide Developers' Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California. Phil Schiller, Apple's SVP of worldwide marketing, said on stage that the product has been in the works for "years". Finally, Apple is now working with Steam, Unity and Unreal to bring new virtual reality engines to the operating system. Both speakers can respond to voice requests for the news, weather and tasks such as turning on the lights.

The HomePod is a 6.8-inch speaker driven by an Apple A8 SoC to handle echo cancellation and optimize sound for a given space. "The speaker is one reason to expect updates to Siri this year, as you can bet that Apple will want to let app developers take advantage of this new device".

HomePod users may initially be constrained by Siri's lack of capabilities as compared to Alexa, which also boasts the ability to order millions of Amazon products as well as food from restaurants like Domino's.

New features include person-to-person payment in Apple Pay, iMessage being synced across iOS and macOS, augmented reality support as well as a smarter virtual voice assistant Siri.

Apple has confirmed it will release a smart speaker called HomePod, so you can chat to Siri all the time and not just on your phone. "[And] You can even ask more complex, music-related questions like 'Who's the drummer in this song?' or 'What album came out on this day 20 years ago?'" But the HomePod's real objective isn't just music:.

The speaker will sell for about $350 in December in the US, United Kingdom and Australia. Amazon sells the main version of the Echo for $180; Google's Home speaker goes for $130. Additional markets are planned for next year, while there is no word yet on Australian pricing.

After all, the market for such devices is growing fast, and projected to keep expanding: in a report this month, research firm eMarketer predicted almost 36 million Americans will use a speaker-based voice-assistant each month this year, more than twice as many as a year ago.

Still, the Apple Watch hasn't been a smash hit, fueling worries that the company's ability to transfix customers had waned after the 2011 death of co-founder Steve Jobs. Bass comes from a 4-inch Apple-designed woofer that faces upward to move a lot of air, and software provides automatic bass equalization to avoid distortion as the volume increases. If the speculation pans out, the speaker would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015.

Apple has lagged behind Google and Amazon, however, in incorporating Siri into a voice-operated household device, and it was widely expected to start selling its own. That's especially important because people are starting to access information, entertainment and search in a more "pervasive" way that's less dependent on smarthphones, he said.

"It's clearly about the hardware but also making Siri more obvious to consumers so you can see where she's getting smarter", said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies.

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