What Is The ‘HomePod,’ And Why Is Apple Pegging Its Future On It?

Apple announced the arrival of a new voice-controlled speaker Monday, hoping to keep up with competitors that already offer highly similar devices.

Known as the “HomePod” and priced at $349, the product is a roughly 7-inch cylindrical speaker with essentially the same operating system as an iPhone. The tech company introduced the new technology during its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, in what was likely one of the the biggest reveals of the event. (RELATED: Apple Just Took Steps To Stop One Of The Most Annoying Things On The Internet)

Apple, however, doesn’t want the HomePod to just be a speaker, but rather a computer for the whole home. Set to start shipping in December, the tech conglomerate aims to outdo competitors with its already established technology called Siri, the personal assistant computer program integrated on most of Apple’s iPhones. Apple says that it upgraded the artificial intelligence capacity of Siri and furnished the HomePod with extra features to enhance the interactive experience.

The device is equipped with six different microphones so that users can use their voices to interact with the device fluently and effectively “even while loud music is playing,” according to Apple. By embedding Siri, users can make specific demands like sending a text message and summarizing a news report. Customers are also reportedly able to receive answers to more complex questions, like “‘who’s the drummer in this?'” song.

Yet how well Apple differentiates its new product with others already widely available is questionable. Google Home and several versions of Amazon’s Echo, which utilizes the intelligent personal assistant technology called Alexa, are both substantially cheaper than the HomePod. (RELATED: People Prefer Soothing Young Female Voices For AI Robots)

Both companies’ products, along with similar ones offered by the company Sonos, have been on the market for quite some time, earning many loyal consumers in the process. Amazon, for example, sold more than 11 million Echo devices from mid-2015 to Dec. 1, 2016, according to estimates from Morgan Stanley analysts, who calculated statistics from before the latest holiday season.

Once the design was showcased, some social media users compared the HomePod to household items and treats like a marshmallow or a roll of toilet paper.

The Twitterverse poking fun at the outward appearance of the electronic device doesn’t mean it won’t succeed in the somewhat saturated marketplace. Hoping it’s not too late to the crowded voice-controlled speaker party, Apple seems to be making a big bet on its own technology and software with the HomePod.

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