Apple unveils HomePod speaker, first new product in years, adds VR elements

Apple unveils HomePod speaker, first new product in years, adds VR elements

Apple unveils HomePod speaker, first new product in years, adds VR elements

The smart assistant was revealed Monday at the company's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, Calif., in an effort to lure in developers to work on the next-generation platform.

But while Amazon and Google have stressed the daily practicalities of the artificial intelligence assistants that run Echo and Home, Apple framed HomePod more as a music-listening platform, with practicalities like reminders and calendar nearly an after thought. Under the hood is a proprietary Apple A8 chip, the same processor powering the iPhone 6. You can voice command the HomePod to perform various tasks, such as turning off lights, sending messages, providing weather updates, editing calendars, and other helpful things.

That leaves Apple. Although it was the first smartphone maker to come out with a digital assistant when Siri debuted in 2011, it hasn't had a stand-alone assistant.

The HomePod will hit the market in December in the U.S., U.K., and Australia for $349. The success of the Echo has obviously persuaded Apple-which is gaining a reputation for being reactive as opposed to proactive in consumer trends-to jump into the smart speaker pool, a decision that will be dependent on how Amazon and Google react to the new kid on the block. The most popular paid apps are usually games. "It's not designed like Amazon's Alexa as a front end to online stores...my gut says they will sell millions of these as a powerful home speaker", he added. The manufacturing duties have apparently been handled by the same company that makes the iPhone 7's AirPods, with the devices being tested by Apple employees in secret.

The device is a tad bit expensive compared to Google and Amazon's offerings at $349 a pop, available in white and space gray. The pricing of Apple's device was shared at the conference in comparison to both smart home speakers as well as premium audio speakers.

Finally, Apple executives also emphasised several times during the presentation that the on-device learning means that that the system is more secure than alternative assistants like Google Assistant. And it would mark an effort by Apple to catch up with Amazon and Google. Siri, a digital assistant that has been on Apple's iPhone since 2011, will be voice activated to respond to requests for information and other help around the house. This is what is rumoured to be underpinning Apple's smart assistant product.

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The HomePod is an AI-powered speaker, powered by the same Siri voice assistant found in iPhones and iPads.

The extensive range of updates are all due for release later this year.

Apple says its Safari browser on the Mac will try to guard your privacy by identifying and blocking data files that track you as you move from website to website.

The company also announced that Amazon Prime, the rival movie streaming service to Netflix, will now be available on Apple TV boxes.

But Apple occasionally also uses the event to introduce new devices and services and upgrades to existing products.

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