Apple's next big thing could be a home robot

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware

An Apple robotics division has risen from the ashes of the Apple Car and wants to build an autonomous robot companion for your home.

A generated image of a toy-like Apple robot
A generated image of a toy-like Apple robot



The Apple Car may not have panned out, but research into autonomous systems and robotics may have opened the door to Apple's next project. No, it's not a robot vacuum, but something more advanced for your desk or home.

According to employees familiar with the matter speaking to Bloomberg, robotics work is happening under Apple's hardware engineering division and AI group. AI head John Giannandrea and home product executives Matt Costello and Brian Lynch oversee the project.

Apple had wanted to focus on automotive, the home, and spatial computing, but with Apple Car canceled, work has shifted to the home. The robotics team has two projects underway, but neither has been greenlit to become actual products yet.

One is a robotic monitor arm that can follow the user or react to certain on-screen situations. For example, the monitor might nod when a person in a chat is nodding.

The other is a more ambitious project where a robot would follow the user around the home. It isn't clear what function it would serve today, but the moonshot is to perform simple chores or commands.

Companies like Amazon have shown some interest in the home robotics space. So far, consumer products have taken the form of camera drones and little robots on wheels with digital faces that can act as security.

Both projects rely heavily on Apple's push into artificial intelligence. Autonomous systems and the Apple Car's rumored safetyOS could apply to robots.

Of course, Apple's internal labs work on many projects that never see the light of day. Robots may be interesting to some, but there's not much utility in the technology available today beyond mopping floors.

However, Apple does love entering a field it gets to disrupt. Perhaps an Apple robot could do something others cannot.



Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    I bet this will end up like the Apple car. 
    Apple just throwing stuff out there and seeing what sticks lol.

    Apple does not seem to be focused. Ring, the apple car, robots now.. When can we expect real things?
    ravnorodombyronl
  • Reply 2 of 35
    I don’t see this happening.  I think the biggest opportunity for Apple, outside of their current offerings, is in software and services — not in some new hardware category.
  • Reply 3 of 35
    I bet this will end up like the Apple car. 
    Apple just throwing stuff out there and seeing what sticks lol.

    Apple does not seem to be focused. Ring, the apple car, robots now.. When can we expect real things?
    Apple is doing what Apple has always done. They consider new products and figure out if they are viable or not.

    There have been many rumored products over the years that never materialized. Steve Jobs talked bout how Apple developed a PDA and scrapped it, there was the rumored audio interface for GarageBand that Think Secret reported and Apple sued them out of existence for covering, I feel like there was a camera in there but that might be wishful thinking on my part.  Phones were something they were considering and was born out of the iPad project. So yeah, Apple fiddles with ideas and pursues the one's they think are viable. Kinda the point of R&D.  

    As for "real" things go, Apple post Steve Job's return isn't a company that ventures into entirely new product lines frequently and they just released did the Apple Vision Pro. I don't think we are going to see a big new products in the near future. Refreshes of existing stuff? Sure.

     




    edited April 3 jas99Afarstarwilliamlondondoggoneravnorodombyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 35
    jas99jas99 Posts: 159member
    I think robotics is perfect for Apple.

    They have the ability to understand what home assistance robots really need to do and take the time to figure out how to do it well. 

    I was actually hoping that they would enter this field for a couple of years before this article popped up.

    I’m encouraged.
    byronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 35
    I've been expecting for Apple to build a robot since 2016 when they showed the robot at the end of their exploding light bulb ad. We also remember Tim Cook's interview with Kara Swisher in 2021 when Cook said the following "If you sort of step back, the car, in a lot of ways, is a robot. An autonomous car is a robot. And so there's lots of things you can do with autonomy. And we'll see what Apple does." 

    Exploding lightbulbs Ad: https://youtu.be/hCI26Xcp2lQ?si=zLg5OzweYhUd8y47 
     Scene begins @ 1:17

    byronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 35
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,378member
    Well, maybe. 

    There are things I do around the house that, in principle, an AI-enabled robot could learn and replicate, like filling and emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming, taking out the trash, etc. In some ways that would be easier than an autonomous vehicle because the stakes of mistakes are lower -- breaking a dish isn't as bad as running over a pedestrian. And with an aging/shrinking population more domestic help will be needed. 

    But... humans are very well adapted to the context in which humans operate, and creating a robot that can add value in that context will be very hard -- even harder to do it cost effectively. With enough time and investment it could be done, I suppose, but I bet this is more than 10 years away. 

    To my way of thinking the more promising context for developing robots is space exploration. Humans are not well adapted to space *at all*. Space is hard on everything, but robots might be better suited for it than humans, if for no other reason than they are expendable (the fact that they don't need to breathe is pretty nice, though). So I suspect SpaceX is better positioned to develop robots than Apple. Too bad SpaceX is owned by Elon Musk. 
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 35
    AfarstarAfarstar Posts: 55member
    Might see a product in 10 years time. 
    williamlondonravnorodombyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 35
     Interesting but nothing more than R&D at this time.   Maybe we see something come out in another 5 years.  I would think Apple would rather buy a robotics company that is significantly further along than they are.   Heck why not buy a robotics company since they wasted $10B on the Apple Car which made a little more sense as the prior rumours of an Apple branded TV set. 
    williamlondonbyronl
  • Reply 9 of 35
    charles1charles1 Posts: 82member
    If Apple doesn't make it, Someone like Jeff Bezos will. 

    9secondkox2watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 35
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,073member
    I bet this will end up like the Apple car. 
    Apple just throwing stuff out there and seeing what sticks lol.

    Apple does not seem to be focused. Ring, the apple car, robots now.. When can we expect real things?
    All of those things you mentioned are rumors of what Apple's research and development has worked on or may be working on. None of those are "Apple just throwing stuff out there and seeing what sticks." Apple hasn't announced any of those things. Apple doesn't announce things until they are "real things" confirmed for production. So for "real things," they just released their first iteration of Vision Pro recently.  

    Any company in Apple's position will research a very wide variety of possible devices and services. Some of those will get some level of development, and a very, very small subset of those will pan out and become "real things."

    Apple has a pretty high success rate for when they release new "real things." The reality is that they don't come often, and they take several years with several model upgrades before they achieve widespread adoption. At that point, they seem ubiquitous and everyone thinks they were an overnight sensation. After that, each product line sees nearly annual enhancements and updates at an intentional pace designed to encourage owners of several-year-old models to upgrade while also not making people who spent good money on last year's model feel like it's already obsolete. 

    These updates are then denounced by the peanut gallery as underwhelming incrementalism that pales in comparison to the "good old days" (that never happened) when Apple announced new blockbuster products every year that were instantaneously successful. 
    king editor the gratejas99freeassociate2williamlondontmayroundaboutnowbyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 35
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,489member
    I had to check the date on this one. Two days overdue.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 35
    I bet this will end up like the Apple car. 
    Apple just throwing stuff out there and seeing what sticks lol.

    Apple does not seem to be focused. Ring, the apple car, robots now.. When can we expect real things?
    Apple is doing what Apple has always done. They consider new products and figure out if they are viable or not.

    There have been many rumored products over the years that never materialized. Steve Jobs talked bout how Apple developed a PDA and scrapped it, there was the rumored audio interface for GarageBand that Think Secret reported and Apple sued them out of existence for covering, I feel like there was a camera in there but that might be wishful thinking on my part.  Phones were something they were considering and was born out of the iPad project. So yeah, Apple fiddles with ideas and pursues the one's they think are viable. Kinda the point of R&D.  

    As for "real" things go, Apple post Steve Job's return isn't a company that ventures into entirely new product lines frequently and they just released did the Apple Vision Pro. I don't think we are going to see a big new products in the near future. Refreshes of existing stuff? Sure.

     




    There was a camera. It was called the QuickTake camera and was released in 1994. It had a resolution of 640x480. 
    mattinozwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 35
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,378member
    jayweiss said:
    I bet this will end up like the Apple car. 
    Apple just throwing stuff out there and seeing what sticks lol.

    Apple does not seem to be focused. Ring, the apple car, robots now.. When can we expect real things?
    Apple is doing what Apple has always done. They consider new products and figure out if they are viable or not.

    There have been many rumored products over the years that never materialized. Steve Jobs talked bout how Apple developed a PDA and scrapped it, there was the rumored audio interface for GarageBand that Think Secret reported and Apple sued them out of existence for covering, I feel like there was a camera in there but that might be wishful thinking on my part.  Phones were something they were considering and was born out of the iPad project. So yeah, Apple fiddles with ideas and pursues the one's they think are viable. Kinda the point of R&D.  

    As for "real" things go, Apple post Steve Job's return isn't a company that ventures into entirely new product lines frequently and they just released did the Apple Vision Pro. I don't think we are going to see a big new products in the near future. Refreshes of existing stuff? Sure.

     




    There was a camera. It was called the QuickTake camera and was released in 1994. It had a resolution of 640x480. 
    And at this point it might be more accurate to describe the iPhone as a camera with a built in phone than a phone with a built in camera. I wouldn’t be surprised if the camera related parts and software represent a larger fraction of cost than the phone parts.
    mattinozwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 35
    jayweiss said:
    I bet this will end up like the Apple car. 
    Apple just throwing stuff out there and seeing what sticks lol.

    Apple does not seem to be focused. Ring, the apple car, robots now.. When can we expect real things?
    Apple is doing what Apple has always done. They consider new products and figure out if they are viable or not.

    There have been many rumored products over the years that never materialized. Steve Jobs talked bout how Apple developed a PDA and scrapped it, there was the rumored audio interface for GarageBand that Think Secret reported and Apple sued them out of existence for covering, I feel like there was a camera in there but that might be wishful thinking on my part.  Phones were something they were considering and was born out of the iPad project. So yeah, Apple fiddles with ideas and pursues the one's they think are viable. Kinda the point of R&D.  

    As for "real" things go, Apple post Steve Job's return isn't a company that ventures into entirely new product lines frequently and they just released did the Apple Vision Pro. I don't think we are going to see a big new products in the near future. Refreshes of existing stuff? Sure.

     




    There was a camera. It was called the QuickTake camera and was released in 1994. It had a resolution of 640x480. 
    Sorry, wasn't talking the QuickTake series, there were 3 or 4 of those right? Those were just rebranded Fuji cameras. 

    I'm talking post Job's return. Back when Apple was doing the "digital hub" marketing for the Mac. They were going through this process of software & hardware combos.
    iiTunes/iPod,
    iChat/iSight
    iDVD/Superdrive
    GarageBand/Rumored Audio Input Device, I found this article on MacRumors about it. Funny, the MacRumors actually cites Apple Insider as their source but the AI link doesn't work. 
    iMovie & iPhone/??? & Photo printing service.

     I have a vague memory of a rumored camera/DVcamera that was meant be an accessory for iPhoto and iMove. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part.  

    But anyway, my comment was in reference to something a bit newer than the Qukctake 

    I also guess one could argue Apple ultimately did make a camera/DV Camera in the form of the iPhone. 
    edited April 3 byronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 35
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 2,852member
    As much as I would have loved to see an Apple Car, I trust Apple has taken a strong look at the  difficult market and decided it’s not the time. EVs are notoriously difficult to profit from, the infrastructure isn’t there at all, and the tech is either coming from Tesla or China. Some intense competition coming from Hyundai in terms of quality and price is also very difficult to deal with, especially considering Apple wanted to partner with them at one point. 

    But home robotics? Whole new story. I’d actually love to see Apple come out with a vacuum/mop, etc. but an Optimus type robot butler would be insane too. With ai being all the rage, that may be a good use of it. A criminal busts into your house? “Hey Apple Oprimus, send them to ovliviion.” A half-second kung-fu download neo style, and the bad guy knows why Mwgatroj kept retreating back in the day. 

    Pick my clothes off the floor and put in the laundry before the wife gets back from the salon? Heck Yes. Heat up some burgers while I’m busy tending to the real work of putting in some YouTube time? Right on. 

    Kidding aside… well who am I kidding. I’m not kidding. These would be rad. But I doubt apple would actually make something that level of useful. But I bet it will be up there. Excited to see where this goes. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 35
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 3,094member
    dewme said:
    I had to check the date on this one. Two days overdue.
    yup. this stuff is pure fantasy, much like that Apple Car story. Apple was never, ever, going to make a whole car.


    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 35
    Didn’t Jony Ive design EVE from Wall-E.
    9secondkox2ravnorodomwilliamlondonbyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 35
    omasouomasou Posts: 604member
    I bet this will end up like the Apple car. 
    Apple just throwing stuff out there and seeing what sticks lol.

    Apple does not seem to be focused. Ring, the apple car, robots now.. When can we expect real things?

    That’s Google MO.

    Internet rumor != reality. Even if real Apple has repeatedly stated they work on multiple idea but are focused and have to say no to a lot of good ideas.
    jas99williamlondonbyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 35
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 2,852member
    Didn’t Jony Ive design EVE from Wall-E.
    He did. And it was a sweet design. 
    byronl
  • Reply 20 of 35
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 2,852member
    In another note, I visited Taiwan last year and went to what appeared to be a fairly run down town. But there was one restaurant there that was bustling. 

    So my GF and I decided to have lunch there and they had robot waiters. Very interesting. Not Optimus style. A bit more rudimentary. Basically server trays on wheels with anime cat faces on a screen. They could navigate around people and obstacles to being your order to you. They said some pretty funny stuff in Mandarin and would get impatient if you didn’t take your food from the tray in a timely manner. It was unexpected and a lot of fun. 
    watto_cobra
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