Will HomePod make a second splash at WWDC 2018?

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in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV
Apple's introduction of HomePod at last year's Worldwide Developer Conference might not have seemed to have much direct relevance for third-party developers because unlike iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Macs and Apple TV it doesn't run apps.


HomePod in HomeKit with Siri

However, Apple did introduce Siri Intents for HomePod, enabling App Extensions to take over the handling of specific requests, such as third-party messaging or list-management apps. You can expect to see an expansion of these Siri Extents for HomePod this year. HomePod shipped with a notable lack of support for features Siri can already handle, including Calendar tasks.

Apple also touched on two other technologies related to HomePod last year: AirPlay 2 (which it just released) and integration with HomeKit. Currently, HomePod can serve as a hub to control your HomeKit devices, but can't really do much on its own as a HomeKit device. Everything it can do via Siri is directed to HomePod itself, rather than being orchestrated by other devices in your Home setup.

HomePod could easily act as a HomeKit device that integrates with Scenes, enabling users to set up a party scene that plays a danceable playlist accompanied by dramatic lighting or a downtempo lounge scene that dims the lights and requests a chill playlist or songs by your favorite jazz artist.

Apple has already stitched HomePod into its Continuity web, enabling Siri to do a pretty good job of recognizing whether to handle your voice requests from HomePod or your iPhone or Watch. There's more Apple could do there, such as allowing a task to work between devices, giving you an audible answer from your smart speaker while presenting a graphical interface on your phone or watch that you can navigate by touch.

While Voice First has recently been hailed as the future, the reality is that we've had voice recognition commands for decades, and yet have preferred to handle most of our computing tasks with point-and-click or multitouch interfaces instead.


In 1986, "Star Trek IV" imagined voice as the future, but today mobilibility is


Competing voice services--notably Amazon's Alexa-powered Echo--already attempt to recognize the speaker by voice, which HomePod could eventually catch up in to enable personalized commands, automatically remembering your song requests while allowing guests to make music requests that don't affect your personal preferences, for example. Smart controls could also limit what actions guest voices can request, while still responding to any of your commands.

HomePod as a background computer

However, the fact that HomePod packs a speedy processor and is unconstrained by battery limits means that HomePod could eventually serve as a smart home computer in the background. Both HomePods and Apple TVs could be orchestrated to handle background tasks distributed across your home network.


HomePod and Apple TV fill your home with background computers--similar to a modern automobile


Additionally, the fact that HomePod has some onboard storage and a fast processor means that Apple could eventually delegate it tasks that are otherwise wasting battery on your mobile device. Imagine if, rather than Photos doing background imaging processing on your phone for face recognition and album creation, all your devices simply synced your photos to iCloud and your HomePod took advantage of its idle time to process your images in the background, synching them back to iCloud and back down to your devices.

HomePod could also churn away at indexing iCloud-synced documents for rapid search, and chew on other ML tasks from third parties in the background. This would require some oversight to prevent malware from trying to exploit the device to turn it into an Amazon Echo-like spy tool like Smart TV vendors have done, or the way surveillance marketers like Facebook have exploited Android phones to collect massive amounts of information on users.

Malware authors might likely also jump at the chance to micro-mine Bitcoin on your home's available devices, were there no constraints on what they could execute on the HomePods and Apple TVs in your home.

As HomeKit devices get smarter and gain the ability to communicate among each other, HomePod could develop into a smart control platform doing analytics related to home climate control, wireless service strength, and monitor security systems.

With some additional hardware, such as a motion detector or camera, HomePod could even serve as a security system on its own. But with ubiquitous wireless connectivity, wireless cameras could integrate with a room's HomePod to analyze for motion and send deliver you notifications anytime something out of the ordinary is happening.

HomePod as a sound processor

The core feature of HomePod--its ability to create a large, surrounding soundscape--is also something Apple could open up to content developers to reproduce accurate representations of live events or 4D sound presentations


Addressing "What's new in Audio," Akshatha Nagesh discussed new support for ambisonics


Last year's WWDC actually featured a presentation on higher order ambisonics, a technology for delivering 360 degree sound that can be digitally reinterpreted by a speaker system (compared to canned 5.1 channel surround that requires specific speaker placement and a study of the room's acoustics).

AirPlay 2 and the "stereo" pairing of HomePods (note that an individual HomePod was already a stereo device) were just delivered, and they now offer content producers new ways to distribute their content to multiple HomePods or to a mix of WiFi connected speakers that support the new protocol.

This could help Apple TV gaming titles to deliver immersive soundtracks aimed at HomePod playback. And by making surround audio standard on TV and movie content in a format HomePod can accurately replicate in your living room, Apple could show off a compelling reason for standardizing on its smart speaker.

Apple has a lot to show at WWDC next week, so stay tuned and follow our social media feeds on Twitter @AppleInsider and Instagram @appleinsider_official.
Alex1N
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    My feeling is that Apple would be better to focus on improving Siri and building out services on their end rather than putting photos and security systems on to the HomePod itself. I doubt that Apple would sell a security system with no back up battery. Some companies might but not Apple.
    williamlondonAlex1N
  • Reply 2 of 30
    asciiascii Posts: 5,816member
    It does seem to be a powerful processor to be sitting there doing nothing most of the time.

    I am thinking they might release a Product Red HomePod at WWDC, it's a single colour product already so seems like it might be one of the easier ones to Red.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 30
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    HomePod will revolutionize the future of computing.  don't let it's pretty face fool you.
    claire1lolliver
  • Reply 4 of 30
    ericthehalfbeeericthehalfbee Posts: 3,670member
    While the A8 seems like overkill for a speaker, you have to remember that it's sampling 7 channels of audio (6 microphones and the low-frequency bass mic) and also outputting 8 channels of audio (7 tweeters and 1 bass) while performing numerous real-time calculations on all that audio. I doubt the processors used in other smart speakers could do any of the processing the HomePod is doing.
    Alex1Naylklolliverwatto_cobracaladanian
  • Reply 5 of 30
    macapfelmacapfel Posts: 479member
    A HomePod app store would be very welcome: radio apps, podcasts, maybe even a conversational learning a language app – and, yes, multi-timer apps. I think there would be a number of interesting apps people would come up with.
    Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 30
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,902member
    So the HomePod could ultimately become a replacement for the Mac mini and become Apple’s first in-house venture into cluster computers/computing. I could see this even though I was partly joking. Once you get enough Apple devices in your home, you don’t really need a mesh network because all your devices could communicate with each other using Bluetooth and their own short range wireless (like AirDrop). Maybe this is why Apple dropped their Airport devices. Daniel talked about malware authors effectively setting up bot networks so why couldn’t Apple simply set up an official local area bot network (LABN)?

    It’s my birthday today so I’m having fun but anything is possible, right?
    patchythepiratejony0lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 30
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,766member
    There’s almost nothing of interest in HomePod for developers. I don’t expect it to be anything more than background.
    williamlondonaylk
  • Reply 8 of 30
    jdgazjdgaz Posts: 293member
    Maybe Apple Music could stream lossless audio to this wonderful speaker.
    aylk
  • Reply 9 of 30
    myopic1myopic1 Posts: 3member
    I'd like to see a Apple replacement for my Sonos Bar/Sub.  Something with incredible sound & (an upgraded) Siri.  I'd even trust Apple with a camera for gesture control.

    Maybe it could make up for some of the horrible, awful shortcomings of AppleTV and its just terrible remote.....
  • Reply 10 of 30
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 329member
    jdgaz said:
    Maybe Apple Music could stream lossless audio to this wonderful speaker.
    I’m hoping that this could also be the case for Apple TV, both for lossless audio and multi-channel surround audio mixes. My Apple TV is already hooked up to a 5.1 system, and I’m sure that’s fairly common. The primary barrier to the various unsuccessful/marginally successful audiophile formats has been the expense and inconvenience of re-purchasing content on specialty physical media (SACD, DVD Audio, Blu Ray Audio, etc.). Given that barrier and the niche market of people willing to go the extra mile to acquire compatible playback devices and content, it’s never worked. With Apple TVs and HomePods already out there, Apple Music could either offer a premium quality content subscriber rate, or do as they’ve done with 4K video, and simply make it available to those with the output devices.
    edited May 31 claire1Alex1N
  • Reply 11 of 30
    hmlongcohmlongco Posts: 149member
    "Last year's WWDC actually featured a presentation on higher order ambisonics, a technology for delivering 360 degree sound that can be digitally reinterpreted by a speaker system..."

    Cool. As I mentioned before, I think a killer feature would be THREE HomePods, two up front for stereo TV sound and a rear pod that wirelessly handles all of the backchannel sounds.
    williamlondonAlex1N
  • Reply 12 of 30
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,518member
    "note that an individual HomePod was already a stereo device"

    I just ordered a second one so I am expecting Quadraphonic!  ;)
    williamlondonAlex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 30
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,518member
    There’s almost nothing of interest in HomePod for developers. I don’t expect it to be anything more than background.
    I think HomePod has the potential to be far more that we see (hear) at present.  I suspect it is vastly under utilizing its onboard tech.  That said, I doubt anyone but Apple will be utilizing that potential other than HomeKit devices.  Apple on the other hand could maybe use it for a form of edge computing, maybe to enhance Siri on the LAN for example?
    edited May 31 Alex1Nlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 30
    hmlongco said:
    "Last year's WWDC actually featured a presentation on higher order ambisonics, a technology for delivering 360 degree sound that can be digitally reinterpreted by a speaker system..."

    Cool. As I mentioned before, I think a killer feature would be THREE HomePods, two up front for stereo TV sound and a rear pod that wirelessly handles all of the backchannel sounds.
    I've been wondering about this since HomePod was announced. Obviously, sound from the HP is way beyond antiquated standard stereo (despite those who insist its a mono speaker or misunderstand technical progress over stereo sound), and would love to know about optimal experience and speaker positioning with multiple HPs. Wondering if 3 will actually be needed, or could 2 fill the room better than 3.1/5.1/7.1 speaker setups currently do (which most of us already have)? Would love to have people really test this, I think like you, fewer (than current 3/5 or 7 standard speaker arrangements) will be needed and the sound will be amazing compared to what we currently have.
    edited May 31 Alex1N
  • Reply 15 of 30
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,518member
    hmlongco said:
    "Last year's WWDC actually featured a presentation on higher order ambisonics, a technology for delivering 360 degree sound that can be digitally reinterpreted by a speaker system..."

    Cool. As I mentioned before, I think a killer feature would be THREE HomePods, two up front for stereo TV sound and a rear pod that wirelessly handles all of the backchannel sounds.
    I've been wondering about this since HomePod was announced. Obviously, sound from the HP is way beyond antiquated standard stereo (despite those who insist its a mono speaker or misunderstand technical progress over stereo sound), and would love to know about optimal experience and speaker positioning with multiple HPs. Wondering if 3 will actually be needed, or could 2 fill the room better than 3.1/5.1/7.1 speaker setups currently do (which most of us already have)? Would love to have people really test this, I think like you, fewer (than current 3/5 or 7 standard speaker arrangements) will be needed and the sound will be amazing compared to what we currently have.
    I agree about the silly 'it's mono' comments.  I am looking forward to trying two, paired and I suspect the result will be stunning.  Meanwhile for those that continue to underestimate Apple's audio technology, I just added a new Mac Pro with Touch Bar to my recording studio and cannot believe the sound that thing generates.  It's so good I am able to run Logic right out of the built in speakers and not use my headphones or even the monitor amp and speakers for most of my work which is with electric guitar and midi keyboard.  I am totally in shock at how good the audio is.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 30
    rob53 said:

    It’s my birthday today so I’m having fun but anything is possible, right?
    Sooo, you’ll be changing your name to “Rob54”?

    I don’t think this is currently possible but I’d like the ability to stream to a HomePod from my iPhone (or whatever) using an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network, similar to how AirDrop works.  As far as I know, HomePod needs to connect to Wi-Fi to work at all.  That is a limitation for someone like my wife who would love to have a HomePod at work but she can’t get access to their Wi-Fi with a personal device.
    SpamSandwichclaire1Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 30
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 329member
    hmlongco said:
    "Last year's WWDC actually featured a presentation on higher order ambisonics, a technology for delivering 360 degree sound that can be digitally reinterpreted by a speaker system..."

    Cool. As I mentioned before, I think a killer feature would be THREE HomePods, two up front for stereo TV sound and a rear pod that wirelessly handles all of the backchannel sounds.
    I've been wondering about this since HomePod was announced. Obviously, sound from the HP is way beyond antiquated standard stereo (despite those who insist its a mono speaker or misunderstand technical progress over stereo sound), and would love to know about optimal experience and speaker positioning with multiple HPs. Wondering if 3 will actually be needed, or could 2 fill the room better than 3.1/5.1/7.1 speaker setups currently do (which most of us already have)? Would love to have people really test this, I think like you, fewer (than current 3/5 or 7 standard speaker arrangements) will be needed and the sound will be amazing compared to what we currently have.
    One HomePod is definitely not mono. Two will probably create a pretty convincing stereo sound space in front of you, but I don't think they can act as electronic ventriloquists and project sound silently past you to only be heard when bounced back as virtual back channel surround sound. HomePods are indeed impressive, but that would be a remarkable trick of physics indeed. 
    Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 30
    jdgazjdgaz Posts: 293member
    AppleZulu said:
    jdgaz said:
    Maybe Apple Music could stream lossless audio to this wonderful speaker.
    I’m hoping that this could also be the case for Apple TV, both for lossless audio and multi-channel surround audio mixes. My Apple TV is already hooked up to a 5.1 system, and I’m sure that’s fairly common. The primary barrier to the various unsuccessful/marginally successful audiophile formats has been the expense and inconvenience of re-purchasing content on specialty physical media (SACD, DVD Audio, Blu Ray Audio, etc.). Given that barrier and the niche market of people willing to go the extra mile to acquire compatible playback devices and content, it’s never worked. With Apple TVs and HomePods already out there, Apple Music could either offer a premium quality content subscriber rate, or do as they’ve done with 4K video, and simply make it available to those with the output devices.
    I agree. My AppleTV is connected to my Marantz which powers some pretty fabulous speakers. Would love to have lossless running there full time. HomePod sits in our master bath and does a great job. But there is room for improvement, which lossless would certainly be.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 30
    claire1claire1 Posts: 353unconfirmed, member
    Guys.....

    I'm predicting Apple will reveal a soundbar. Maybe not during WWDC but soon. HomePod is really putting the pieces together for TV.

    I would love if Apple rounded up the Kinect team and others to develop ambient lighting for TV. "Surround lighting" so if a helicopter points toward the viewer in a movie it lights up the room and bullets fly by your face during war movies, crazy room colors during animated movies etc. The possibilities are endless. It can even be independent from TV for party lighting etc.

    Here's an example of Microsofts vaporware with the surround lighting idea:





    I've said this many times before as a HomePod feature.
  • Reply 20 of 30
    claire1claire1 Posts: 353unconfirmed, member
    macapfel said:
    A HomePod app store would be very welcome: radio apps, podcasts, maybe even a conversational learning a language app – and, yes, multi-timer apps. I think there would be a number of interesting apps people would come up with.
    Or Apple could get it's crap together and create an interactive way to exploit it's millions of songs, podcasts, iTunes U, movies etc. for the user. Maybe Apple could create a language learning platform.

    AppleZulu said:
    hmlongco said:
    "Last year's WWDC actually featured a presentation on higher order ambisonics, a technology for delivering 360 degree sound that can be digitally reinterpreted by a speaker system..."

    Cool. As I mentioned before, I think a killer feature would be THREE HomePods, two up front for stereo TV sound and a rear pod that wirelessly handles all of the backchannel sounds.
    I've been wondering about this since HomePod was announced. Obviously, sound from the HP is way beyond antiquated standard stereo (despite those who insist its a mono speaker or misunderstand technical progress over stereo sound), and would love to know about optimal experience and speaker positioning with multiple HPs. Wondering if 3 will actually be needed, or could 2 fill the room better than 3.1/5.1/7.1 speaker setups currently do (which most of us already have)? Would love to have people really test this, I think like you, fewer (than current 3/5 or 7 standard speaker arrangements) will be needed and the sound will be amazing compared to what we currently have.
    One HomePod is definitely not mono. Two will probably create a pretty convincing stereo sound space in front of you, but I don't think they can act as electronic ventriloquists and project sound silently past you to only be heard when bounced back as virtual back channel surround sound. HomePods are indeed impressive, but that would be a remarkable trick of physics indeed. 

    There's a way to fool the brain to think sound is coming from behind your head. This is done by mimicking the back of the ear by reducing certain frequencies etc. But it isn't real.

    I sooo want a HomePod surround system.
    watto_cobra
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