Today at WWDC 2017, Apple announced its long-rumoured smart speaker solution. Dubbed “HomePod” the new speaker appears to have a strong focus on music, with Apple touting it as a speaker to “reinvent home music” through features such as “Rock the house” sound, spatial awareness, and “Musicologist.” The speaker comes in at just under 7” tall, and is cylindrical and covered in a 3D mesh fabric available in either white or space grey. Internally, the HomePod features an array of 7 beam-forming tweeters at the bottom, coupled with an Apple-Designed 4” upward-facing woofer. An A8 chip inside the speaker provides advanced intelligence to allow the speaker to perform real-time acoustic modelling, audio beam-forming, and multi-channel echo cancellation so that it can adjust to the space it’s placed in and balance audio appropriately. Integrated Siri capabilities allow the speaker to act as a “musicologist” with Apple Music, which can be streamed directly to the HomePod without requiring an intermediate iOS device. Six microphones allow the speaker to hear audio commands from across the room, even when loud music is playing, and Apple has expanded Siri’s vocabulary and intelligence to allow it to respond to a wide variety of music-related queries.
Apple also touched on other Siri features in the speaker, although these were mentioned in a secondary manner — the company is clearly focusing on the music capabilities. HomeKit functions will be available from the speaker, which it seems will also be able to act as a Home Hub in place of an Apple TV or iPad, and other Siri queries that could typically be directed to an iPhone can be made to the HomePod, such as setting reminders, getting traffic and weather information, send messages, asking general knowledge questions, and more. The speaker will also maintain an emphasis on privacy by only sending voice data to the cloud in response to specific requests initiated with “Hey Siri,” which the speaker will listen for with local voice recognition. The HomePod is expected to sell for $349 and be available in December in the U.S., U.K., and Australia.