New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

A new Apple HomePod smart speaker is seen on display during Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. And as more people install Internet-connected speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home, Siri is missing from that too.

The HomePod adjusts the sound according to where it's placed in the room and comes with six microphones to ensure easy control with voice commands over Siri, even with loud music on. It can play music from Apple Music, tell you the news, do unit conversions, send messages, schedule reminders, set timers, translate, check stocks, answer trivia questions, and tell you what the traffic is like.

As this is an Apple product, it's perhaps no surprise that it's available in space grey or white colours.

HomePod will be initially available in the US, UK and Australia this December. Users can also use HomePod as an at-home assistant, with Siri providing updates on a number of topics, from news to sports to podcasts.

However, in a reference to current tensions over privacy and terrorism, Apple says that the HomePod won't record anything until the term "Hey Siri" is uttered. The HomePod is created to work along with Apple Music, so it essentially requires one to have a subscription to music streaming service, which will give access to over 40 million songs.

While Apple may hope that people buy into the idea of HomePod serving a different, more musical objective than its Amazon and Google rivals, people really like using their speakers for services beyond listening to music. But if Apple introduces a Siri Speaker - which would nearly certainly let users control home appliances with their voice - HomeKit will play an important part.

The cylindrical-shaped HomePod is roughly 7-inches in height and features a large, Apple-designed woofer for deep, clean bass, an array of seven beam-forming tweeters for pure high frequency acoustics with directional control.

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It starts shipping later this year in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia.

The HomePod will be priced at $349, more expensive than Amazon's $180 Echo or $50 Dot and Google's $129 Home. The souped-up new version "will support up to 18 core processors and include a graphic chipset called Radeon Vega", making it Apple's most powerful computer to date, according to the NYT. It's possible that Apple will add features to its operating system that would indicate what's next.

But this isn't just any home speaker.

The HomePod is Apple's first new gadget in almost three years, following its announcement of the Apple Watch in September 2014. Augmented reality is the blending of the physical and virtual worlds.

For photos, Apple is turning to a "high efficiency" format to replace JPEGs.

This works thanks to the "smart home hub" features, which work for all HomeKit-compatible devices. Self-driving cars? Apple has been spotted testing a sensor-laden Lexus around Silicon Valley. And all communications will be encrypted, meaning authorities can't try to tap home communications.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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