Apple is moving ahead with the development of an Echo-like smart-home device based on the Siri voice assistant, reports Bloomberg, quoting unnamed “people familiar with the matter.”
The project has exited the research and development lab and is now in prototype testing, the article adds. Bloomberg says that, like Amazon’s Echo, the device is designed to control appliances, locks, lights and curtains via voice activation, the people said. However, “Apple hasn’t finalized plans for the device and could still scrap the project,” the article says.
These rumors aren’t new. In May it was reported that Apple is working on "an Amazon Echo-like device with a speaker and microphone that people can use to turn on music, get news headlines or set a timer” that will be powered by Siri. However, VentureBeat said that such a gadget might come in the form of a refreshed Apple TV, rather than a new hardware product.
Then CNET chimed in that it won’t be a next generation Apple TV, but will be a “smart speaker” that could be "self aware" and detect who’s in a room using facial recognition technology. Quoting unnamed “people familiar with Apple’s plans” says this would let the device automatically pull up a person's preferences, such as the music and lighting they like.
However, CNET hedged its bets by adding that the hardware could be released by year's end, “but it's more likely to be available in 2017.” However, the aforementioned sources “cautioned, though, that Apple could change its plans to include a camera -- or even scrap the device entirely.”
Chances the rumor is true (IMHO): 50%. If such a device is coming, there's a slim chance we could see it in time for the holidays.