Apple’s launch to spark AI battle
PREPARE your lounge room for a battle between the world's most advanced artificially intelligence devices.
Technology giant Apple has revealed it spent more than six years and assembled "the biggest audio team on the planet" to create its first smart speaker, which will launch in Australia and two other countries this Friday.
The Apple HomePod, revealed to News Corp in an exclusive look at its Cupertino audio lab, will go head-to-head with US smart speaker leader Amazon when it launches speakers this week, as well as Google, which currently leads the Australian market.
Technology experts predict Apple's arrival could double the number of artificially intelligent products in Aussie homes this year, but warned many potential buyers were yet to be convinced that their privacy would remain protected.
Apple will launch its first smart speaker more than three years after Amazon introduced the technology in the US, but Apple audio design and engineering senior director Gary Geaves said its audio team spent a long time perfecting its approach.
"The whole product, from conception through to homing in to the idea to actual execution took more than six years," he said.
"In a new product category there isn't a deadline because you want to make sure that you have something that's compelling before you bring it out."
Mr Geaves said Apple assembled "the biggest and widest acoustic and audio team on the planet" to create its newest product, as well as a series of custom-designed audio labs, including one chamber suspended on isolating springs with foam wedges for a floor.
"It's one of the largest chambers used for louderspeaker development in the US," he said. "We built this chamber specifically for HomePod development."
Apple is taking a gamble on audio in more than one way, however. At $499, the company's first smart speaker will cost more than twice as much as Amazon's Echo Plus that also arrives in the country this week.
But Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi said Australians were likely to embrace Apple's newest product, and HomePod could help double the popularity of smart speakers in Australia this year.
Based on the US experience, as many as one in every five Australian households could use an artificially intelligent device by Christmas, he said.
"We think Apple's HomePod should increase the appetite overall for smart speakers and will resonate with Apple-buying households that don't just have Apple devices but services," Mr Fadaghi said.
"It's neck-and-neck with smart speakers from Amazon and Google and we anticipate that Apple will be a strong third party player in the market."
But Mr Fadaghi warned that all smart speaker makers "need to work harder" on winning consumers' trust with the devices, and ensuring them that their voice recordings were not easily shared or hacked.
Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson travelled to Cupertino as a guest of Apple.