With car junked, Apple robots could be Cupertino’s next moonshot


Apple home robotic devices surely won't look like this Classicbot toy, which looks like a vintage Macintosh computer with arms and legs.
An Apple robot probably won't look much like this Classicbot toy.
Photo: Classicbot

Teams in Cupertino are working on Apple personal home robotic devices, including a mobile robot and a table-top device with a moving display, according to a new report.

These early efforts toward Apple robots could constitute future revenue sources now that the Project Titan car sits on the scrap heap.

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Apple home robotic devices could become future revenue source

If Apple can make headway on robotics for home use, it could take advantage of evolving artificial intelligence to create viable products for consumers, according to a new Bloomberg report.

Apple reportedly prioritized three areas for future growth with its executives before the car project crashed in March — automotive, mixed reality and the home. With Apple car dead and Vision Pro launched, the smart-home market would appear to be a ripe target.

Of course, it’s not yet clear if the mobile Apple robot and table-top device will become viable products, the report noted. And it could take years for Vision Pro to turn big profits.

Apple car project helped launch other initiatives

Even though Apple won’t bring a car to market, the project spawned positive effects — and they continue to reverberate at the company. The neural engines found in Apple’s chips started with the car, as did virtual reality aspects of Vision Pro. And the car’s OS, made for robotic operation, continues to influence Apple’s work in home robotics, too.

Bloomberg‘s sources said the device with a robotic smart display, having come and gone from the product roadmap in recent years, is more developed than the mobile Apple robot, which might be something like a glorified Roomba or Astro.

The work is considered to be in the early research phases. Apple did not comment for the story. But the development appears to be under the auspices of the AI and machine-learning group in Apple’s hardware engineering division.

Another secret Apple facility

Bloomberg‘s report referred to a “secret facility” near Apple Park in Cupertino that looks like a home interior. It’s for testing products designed for home use. Recent explorations have involved a smart-home hub with an iPad for a display. And then there’s the table-top device with the robotic display.

Apple’s hardware engineering chief, John Ternus, and members of the industrial design team first got into the table-top device with robotic display a few years ago. At that point, it was about getting the display to mimic a person’s moving head while they engaged on a FaceTime call, and to lock on one person even on a group call.

Bloomberg‘s sources cited various reasons the Apple robotics project did not advance more rapidly. Those include doubts about market viability, technical problems related to balancing the robotic motor on a stand, and executives’ disputes over whether to advance or scrap the project.

The report also cites Apple’s current employment ads for robotics-related roles.


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