Although Apple’s first-gen HomePod is still nothing more than a twinkle in Jony Ive’s eye, a new report from Nikkei suggests that Apple is already working on a next-gen HomePod, with some very distinctive features.
In particular, the second generation HomePod could come with a camera and Apple’s new Face ID technology, which only just made its way into the lineup with the iPhone X.
Nikkei‘s money quote comes from David Ho, the president of Inventec Appliances, which produces the HomePod and AirPods for Apple:
“We see trends that engineers are designing smart speakers that will not only come with voice recognition but also incorporate features such as facial and image recognition,” President David Ho told reporters after the company’s earnings conference.
“Such AI-related features are set to make people’s lives more convenient and to make the product easier to use.”
Nikkei also quotes analysts who say that Ho was talking specifically about the HomePod. Jeff Pu, an analyst with Yuanta Investment Consulting, also told Nikkei that “Apple could roll out HomePods with 3D-sensing cameras in 2019.”
No-one is doubting that Apple could put facial recognition into the HomePod; the bigger question is why it would even want to. On the iPhone (and, soon, the iPad) Face ID is an authentication system that’s more convenient than entering a passcode. But the HomePod is a speaker, and people don’t normally lock speakers to begin with.
Sure, there are some applications you can dream up: the HomePod could use Face ID to identify different users and customize responses and commands to the individual. Even better would be an ability to recognize if more than one person is in the room, and tailor particular notifications (say, not reading out sensitive emails) based on who you’re with.
But does any of that require a bespoke 3-D depth-sensing camera, rather than just a microphone and basic webcam? Who knows.