“Hey Siri, who played the drums on this song?” “Hey Siri, set up for a house party” “Hey Siri, dim the lights then play some Crowded House”
Ever since it launched in 2011, Siri has been confined to Apple smartphones and computers, unable to break free in the way Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa or Google’s Assistant have. But now, nearly six years on from its debut, Siri is finally moving into living rooms via the HomePod, a Siri-powered, voice-controlled Wi-Fi speaker with an A8 chip for brains.
SIRI MEETS SUPER SPEAKERS
Apple’s new toy (shipping this December for US$349, and a local price expected soon) is crammed with seven beam-forming tweeters and an upward-firing woofer, designed to project a sound tailored to the size of room it’s placed in. As much as it seems like a competitor to Amazon Echo or Google Home, the HomePod is concerned with music and sound quality first. Yes it can turn off your smart lights, but would rather blast out some AC/DC – and then suggest similar bands.
At just under 18 centimetres tall, the HomePod is certainly small for the tech it’s housing. The smart speaker uses room-sensing tech to learn where it’s positioned and to analyse the room’s acoustics, intelligently tuning its output to sound great in that space. The speaker also provides access to Apple Music, with Siri finding tracks. Naturally, there’s multi-room support: add more HomePods around the house and the speakers communicate via AirPlay 2, which means you can use the HomePod to control other AirPlay 2compatible speakers. Place two HomePods in a room and they’ll automatically detect and balance one another, producing an immersive sound experience.
The multiple tweeters have their own amps, for a fully directional sound, and even the woofer is smart – an algorithm analyses the music playing and dynamically tunes the low frequencies.
Touchy-feely types will also dig Apple’s integrated controls – tap the top of the speaker to play, pause or adjust volume. The setup is easy, too – just hold your iPhone next to the HomePod to kick-start things.