Apple takes on Amazon Echo with $350 Siri-powered HomePod

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Siri has formally entered the sensible speaker market. At WWDC 2017 in San Jose on Monday, Apple executives introduced a lot of updates to Siri with iOS11, maybe the most important being its integration into a brand new sensible speaker known as HomePod.

“Just like iPod reinvented music in our pockets, HomePod is going to reinvent music in our homes,” mentioned Phil Schiller, senior vp of worldwide advertising at Apple, throughout the keynote speech.

Rumors of Apple constructing an Echo competitor had been first reported a 12 months in the past. Now, Apple is clearly making an attempt to distinguish itself from Amazon and Google by concentrating on music lovers with the speaker: While the Amazon Echo is a great speaker, it lacks high quality audio capabilities, Schiller mentioned. Schiller added HomePod’s skills as a digital assistant virtually as an finish notice throughout the keynote speech.

HomePod is cylindrical, slightly below seven inches tall, and lined in a 3D mesh cloth. An Apple A8 chip, the identical as present in an iPhone, controls the system—offering the most important mind to be present in a wise speaker, Schiller mentioned. HomePod additionally robotically detects the house it’s inside, and makes use of that info to regulate and steadiness the audio relying on the room. It can acknowledge a voice command from wherever in a room, even whereas music is enjoying, Schiller mentioned.

SEE: Apple’s Siri: The sensible particular person’s information

The speaker connects with a person’s Apple Music account. Via Siri, a person may give instructions or ask questions corresponding to “Play Beats 1 radio,” “Who is singing on this track?” “I like this song,” “What was the top song in 1983?” and “Play more like this.” It features a six microphone array across the speaker, in addition to a four-inch woofer, computerized bass equalization, real-time acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, and multi-channel echo cancellation.

Similar to the Amazon Echo and Google Home, on HomePod, Siri can present information, unit conversions, messaging, reminders, podcasts, alarms and timers, translations, shares, common data, climate, visitors, and sports activities info.

HomePod additionally makes use of Siri to hook up with dwelling IoT units by way of the HomeEquipment, permitting you to entry your sensible dwelling units from wherever on the planet, Schiller mentioned.

Schiller additionally addressed privateness issues: Until the system hears “Hey Siri,” it doesn’t ship some other communication to Apple, he mentioned. When it does hear the command, it sends an nameless Siri ID to Apple to satisfy your request, and all communication is encrypted.

HomePod is priced at $349, and can be accessible in December within the US, the UK, and Australia. Next 12 months, will probably be accessible worldwide. This is a a lot larger worth level than Amazon Echo, at $180, and Google Home, at $129, and it stays to be seen if this can be a problem for shoppers.

Image: Sean Hollister/CNET

Other Siri upgrades

With iOS11, Siri’s voice is getting an improve. Developers used deep studying to create extra pure, expressive female and male voices for Siri, which might say phrases in several methods relying on context, mentioned Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vp of software program engineering, throughout the keynote.

Siri’s improve additionally features a new visible interface, and the flexibility to supply customers with observe up questions and solutions with only a faucet. It additionally gives a number of outcomes whenever you make a question.

A significant new functionality impacting enterprise customers is translation. You can now ask Siri, “How do you say ‘What are the most popular dishes in your restaurant’ in Chinese?” and Siri will reply in Chinese, Federighi mentioned. Initially, Siri will be capable of translate from English to Chinese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, with extra language choices accessible in coming months.

SiriEquipment additionally has extra capabilities in iOS11, together with simple integrations with apps for activity administration, banking, and others. The digital assistant can higher perceive your voice, the context of your requests, your pursuits, how you utilize your system, and finally, what you need subsequent, Federighi mentioned. It can now predict what information tales you may need to learn, and may reply to a textual content message asking “Where are you?” with an estimation of when you’ll arrive at a given location. It also can make a calendar appointment primarily based on an occasion booked via Safari.

What Siri learns will now get synced throughout all units, with end-to-end encryption, so you should use one Siri throughout all units, Federighi mentioned.

SEE: Apple’s new HomePod sensible speaker brings Siri dwelling (CNET)

Siri in iOS11 is ready to higher learn the way you utilize your system. For instance, Federighi mentioned, when you analysis Iceland, whenever you go to News, Siri will counsel an article about Iceland. And when you faucet into an article about places in Iceland, Siri will bear in mind them, and counsel them as you kind in messages.

Apple additionally introduced a brand new Siri face on the Apple Watch OS4, which robotically shows the knowledge most related to you, utilizing machine studying to adapt robotically primarily based in your routines and generally used apps. You can faucet a Siri icon within the high left nook to entry the assistant instantly from the watch face as properly.

The Siri watch face will change relying on time of day, robotically mentioning related info corresponding to commute time, assembly reminders, and flight occasions. You also can pull up flight and film tickets proper on the watch with one faucet. Watch OS4 can be accessible as a free improve to all Apple Watches this fall.

Siri is what’s going to finally make or break Apple’s future, in line with ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes. iPhone and iPad gross sales are on the downturn, and Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Facebook are outpacing the corporate in terms of innovation and new applied sciences like augmented actuality (AR) and synthetic intelligence (AI). However, with HomePod, Siri may help Apple compete with the likes of Amazon Alexa and Google Home with an interface-free system that folks can work together with by way of voice command.

Siri is used on greater than 375 million units per thirty days. The assistant is out there in 21 languages throughout 31 nations—greater than some other assistant, Federighi mentioned.

The three large takeaways for TechRepublic readers

1. At WWDC in San Jose on Monday, Apple executives introduced the HomePod, a house assistant and wi-fi speaker set to compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

2. The HomePod is priced at $349, and can be accessible within the US, the UK, and Australia in December.

three. Apple additionally introduced a lot of new updates to Siri with iOS11, together with translation capabilities, and extra superior machine studying capabilities to higher predict a person’s wants.

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