Smart Home

Apple's Echo rival reportedly has a prototype, complete with cameras

Now reportedly being tested in the homes of Apple engineers, the rumored device could pack improved Siri controls and facial recognition cameras into a smart home speaker.

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The rumored Apple device would compete with both the Amazon Echo and the upcoming Google Home smart speaker.

CNET

Apple's long-rumored answer to the Amazon Echo smart speaker is now being tested in secret in the homes of Apple engineers, Bloomberg reports. The report, which cites sources familiar with the matter, also says that the device includes built-in cameras capable of distinguishing between users and even detecting their emotions, which would corroborate a CNET report from​ earlier this year.

The device is reportedly designed to function similarly to the Amazon Echo, a voice-activated smart home speaker that showcases the online retailer's virtual assistant, Alexa. With simple voice commands, Alexa and the Echo can stream music, answer questions, run optional voice apps called "skills," and control smart home devices.

Apple's device would obviously feature Siri, and Bloomberg reports that the Cupertino company is hard at work on improving her conversational intelligence to fill a larger role in the home. Dedicated voice controls for Apple Music and for devices designed to work with HomeKit, Apple's smart home platform, both seem like very safe bets. Phone-based interactions that would let the speaker read off things like emails, text messages and tweets are also reportedly in the works.

As for the inclusion of cameras that can recognize your face and read your emotions, Bloomberg reports that they're featured in "some" of the prototypes currently being tested, and points to Apple's recent acquisitions of companies that specialize in facial recognition. If the cameras end up making the final cut, they could help to differentiate the device from the Echo and from the Google Home, another smart home speaker currently making its way to retail.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter.