Apple plans Siri-based Amazon Echo rival with facial recognition

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The Amazon Echo has been a surprising hit.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Apple plans to take on the Amazon Echo with a standalone Siri device, according to a new report.

The project is said to have begun two years ago, but has only now entered the prototype testing phase. Much like the Amazon Echo, this device would be able to look up information and control smart home appliances using voice recognition — but possibly include facial recognition tech, too.

The Bloomberg report notes that facial recognition would make sense given Apple’s acquisition of facial recognition startups Faceshift and Emotient over the past couple of years. Apple is reportedly interested in using facial recognition to help detect users’ emotional state at any given time.

There is, of course, no guarantee that a product being prototyped by Apple will ever come to market. Much like patents that never come to fruition, Apple prototypes plenty of products that it winds up ditching.

Both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook have talked about how they are as proud of some the projects they said “no” to as the ones they ended up proceeding with.

With that said, the arrival of Siri on Apple TV and macOS Sierra shows that Apple is enthusiastic about boosting the functionality of its virtual assistant. The somewhat unexpected success of the Amazon Echo also demonstrates that there is a proven market for such a product.

I can see plenty of reasons for Apple to go down the standalone Siri route, particularly as Cook continues to embrace services as well as hardware as a revenue stream for Apple. For this technology to live up to its true potential, however, it would be great to see some more exciting HomeKit products making their way to shelves.

That facial recognition feature could have the potential to undo a lot of the public goodwill about Apple’s pro-privacy iOS push, though.

Would you be excited about a standalone Siri? Leave your comments below.