What it is: HomePod is mostly focused on superior audio quality, but Apple’s latest patent shows the future of HomePod.
Right now, there’s little reason for most people to buy and use Apple’s HomePod smart speaker. HomePod works great as a speaker for playing music, but unless you’re an audiophile who demands the best audio quality, HomePod’s purpose is fairly limited for the price. That’s why Amazon’s much cheaper smart speakers are far more popular.
Right now, HomePod represents a first-generation smart speaker that offers hands-free computing through Siri. Beyond improving Siri to be more accurate along with the ability to detect emotions, Apple is proposing two major new features to HomePod that could help it break out from the crowded smart speaker market.
First is the ability to detect hand gestures. Right now, HomePod is mostly limited to voice control and limited touch gestures, but hand gestures would let you control HomePod from a distance through different hand movements such as raising your hand up or down to adjust the volume.
Since Apple acquired the company behind Microsoft’s Kinect that could detect motion gestures, this feature should be easy to implement in the next version of HomePod.
A second new HomePod feature will be providing visual feedback through colors in the mesh of the HomePod exterior. These colors could change to show when it recognized your voice or hand gesture, or they could display limited amount of text.
Today’s HomePod is an interesting start, much like the first generation of the iPhone was an interesting start. By adding hand gestures, emotion detection, and color visual feedback, HomePod could gradually become far more useful than just offering superior audio quality.
Apple still needs to define the main reason to use HomePod and hands-free computing. Right now the Apple Watch offers real-time health monitoring, which was impossible to achieve in the past. What can HomePod offer that offers a solution people will want that they can’t get through current technology? Until Apple figures this out, HomePod will remain an interesting but expensive toy to study as it gradually evolves into a useful product for everyone.