Apple unveils HomePod, a smart speaker with Siri inside
Conference previews new Macs, software updates, and work on augmented and virtual reality
Apple unveiled a smart speaker called HomePod featuring the company's Siri personal assistant on Monday, pitting the company against similar products from Google and Amazon.
It was one of a string of updates announced during Apple's annual World Wide Developer Conference conference, which included health-focused software updates for the Apple Watch, the next version of the mobile operating system iOS, and the arrival of virtual reality on the Mac.
"We think we can do lots to make this experience much better," said Apple CEO Tim Cook at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, Calif. "We want to reinvent home music."
The HomePod will ship in December, beginning in the U.S., U.K. and Australia, and cost $349 US.
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It had been rumoured in recent months that Apple would be introducing a smart, stand-alone Siri speaker, similar in functionality to products such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
During the first half the keynote, Apple hinted about the next versions of its operating systems for the Mac and Apple Watch — both of which will be available for download in the fall, alongside new iMacs, MacBooks and a new high-end product called the iMac Pro.
The next version of the Apple Watch operating system — watchOS 4 — includes a new watch face that puts the company's intelligent assistant Siri front and centre. Siri updates the watch face with new information through the day — think calendar entries, flight information, or smart home controls — using "machine learning to adjust automatically based on your routine" according to Apple's vice-president of technology Kevin Lynch.
Apple also revealed that its Watch will now be able to connect wirelessly with other devices, specifically mentioning "glucose monitoring" as one possible application — a likely nod to speculation earlier this year that Apple had been developing a glucose monitoring device that would sync with the Apple Watch.
Users with Apple iPhone and iPad devices running iOS 11 will be able to send money between friends and family using iMessage (though whether this functionality will be available in Canada is unclear). Siri now uses machine learning "on-device" to suggest things like calendar entries and responses to messages.
Apple has been rumoured to be developing its own mobile chip to handle machine learning tasks.
Apple also announced the next version of its Mac operating system — macOS High Sierra — featuring tools for developers to develop virtual reality experiences, and support for virtual reality headsets.
Visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic demonstrated a virtual reality experience in the Star Wars universe, running on a Mac