With WWDC just around the corner, we’re just a few days away from Apple unveiling iOS 11 along with new versions of macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. While WWDC is typically a software-only affair, rumor has it that Apple at WWDC this year will have a slew of hardware announcements. In addition to a brand new edgeless 10.5-inch iPad and a refreshed MacBook line, there are rumblings that Apple will introduce a Siri-based speaker next week at WWDC.
According to reports which surfaced over the past few weeks, Apple’s Siri-based speaker will compete with Google Home and Amazon’s Echo. Feature wise, the product will reportedly incorporate Beats audio technology and will offer users a premium acoustic experience.
As for how Apple’s offering might differ from existing smart speakers already on the market, there are rumblings that the device will feature a touchscreen, a design that Apple executive Phil Schiller arguably confirmed just earlier this month during an interview.
“So there’s many moments where a voice assistant is really beneficial, but that doesn’t mean you’d never want a screen,” Schiller said a few weeks back. “So the idea of not having a screen, I don’t think suits many situations.”
Additionally, a new Bloomberg report sheds some more light on how Apple may carve out space for itself in a market currently dominated by Google and Amazon. Specifically, the report relays that Apple’s Siri speaker will feature virtual surround sound technology and will be tightly integrated with the entirety of Apple’s ecosystem.
Apple hopes that more advanced acoustics technology will give the speaker an edge over competitors, according to people with knowledge of the product’s development. Along with generating virtual surround sound, the speakers being tested are louder and reproduce sound more crisply than rival offerings, the people said. Apple has also considered including sensors that measure a room’s acoustics and automatically adjust audio levels during use, one of the people said.
This is all very intriguing, but it remains to be seen if the acoustic features Apple might deliver will prove to be enough of a draw for users who might reasonably prioritize functionality over premium acoustics. In other words, a top of the line acoustic experience might be an altogether moot point if Siri performance can’t keep pace with what Amazon and Google are able to deliver. The upside, though, is that a Siri speaker will be able to incorporate larger and more advanced microphones which should help processing. What’s more, there are rumors that Apple at WWDC this year will introduce an enhanced version of Siri.
On a related note, Apple is supposedly working on its own neural network that will reportedly help bolster Siri’s artificial intelligence capabilities significantly. With WWDC set to kick off this coming Monday, we won’t have to wait too much longer to find out.