Rumors of a Siri-powered smart home device to compete with Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home have been circulating since May of this year, but we haven’t heard much concrete information about the project since then.
On Friday, we got our first update on the device in months when Bloomberg published a report claiming that the product has now moved out of the research and development lab and into prototype testing.
According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, sources familiar with the matter say that development on the device started over two years ago. Similar to Amazon’s Echo, the smart home accessory would be able to control lights, appliances and other connected devices around the house with voice commands.
Aside from simply keeping pace with Amazon and Google, both of which have voice-controlled assistants either currently available for purchase or coming soon, Apple is also looking to bring another device to market to help bolster sales. The Apple Watch has been a success, but it’s the only non-iterative product Apple has launched in the past several years. Apple needs something new on store shelves.
Speaking of competing, two sources tell Bloomberg that Apple’s device will differentiate itself from Echo and Home by featuring “more advanced microphone and speaker technology.” Another source says that Apple has even included facial recognition sensors on some of its prototypes, which could allow the device to react or respond to a specific individual in the room with it.
The report also reveals that Apple was considering turning its latest Apple TV set-top box into a smart home assistant, but those plans were scrapped when the company decided to focus on voice commands with the remote.
There’s still no telling whether or not Apple will actually launch this device, but at least one source says that Apple engineers have begun testing the prototypes in their homes. If Apple does end up deciding that the device is worth launching, there’s a good chance we’ll see an official unveiling within the next year.