Apple's New HomePod Smart Speaker Promises to Reinvent Home Audio

The HomePod will stream more than 40 million songs from the Apple Music library while using Siri’s voice-recognition skills and real-time AI to double as a personal assistant.

The HomePod has brains, too. Powered by Siri, Apple’s artificial intelligence engine, and an Apple A8 processor — the same chip that shipped with the iPhone 6 — the smart speaker responds to intuitive voice commands and queries. The voice-activated functions are triggered by saying, “Hey, Siri,” similar to the way in which the Amazon Echo perks up when you say the name “Alexa.” Siri will also effectively function as a "musicologist," Schiller said, as it learns the musical tastes of its users.

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What types of things can Siri do in speaker form? For music, it means you can tell Siri to “play another song like this” or ask “who’s the drummer on this track?” You can ask Siri what the weather’s going to be tomorrow or what the traffic looks like for the morning commute. You can set a timer or a reminder or schedule an appointment that will sync with the Calendar app on all of your Apple devices.

Speaking of apps, Schiller made a big deal of HomePod’s easy integration with the Home app available on the iPhone or iPad. The Home app allows you to remotely control any device or home accessory that’s compatible with the Apple HomeKit — lights, thermostats, home security systems, and more. By adding HomePod into the mix, you can control these devices with simple voice commands. “Hey Siri, can you turn up the air conditioning?” or “Hey Siri, turn on the reading lamp.”

On the privacy front, Schiller said that the HomePod doesn’t send data to Apple unless it hears the phrase “Hey Siri,” and he assured the audience at conference that even then those communications are anonymized and encrypted.

The HomePod, which has been years in the making, represents the only brand-new product category introduced during the keynote at the WWDC, a popular showcase for Apple’s latest gadgets. In addition to the speaker, the company announced the release of updated iMac desktops (including an all-black iMac Pro), new MacBooks and MacBook Pros, new iPad Pros, and new operating systems for both Apple computers and mobile devices.

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