Apple may have some big plans for HomePod, if a recently granted patent is any indication. The patent in question, published Thursday, doesn’t mention HomePod by name — but it’s pretty clear what it’s talking about since it describes a fabric-covered “countertop speaker.”
It’s an exhaustive patent that contains a wide range of potential features that could be incorporated into a future device in Apple’s smart speaker product lineup. While there’s no word on if or when the features could be added, the possibilities are interesting nonetheless. Here are just some of the crazy ideas contained in the patent. Continue reading to learn 5 Patented New Features We Might See in Future Apple HomePods.
The current version of HomePod doesn’t have a true display, but Apple is developing ways that it could provide visual feedback to the user without any need to implement a screen. Specifically, the patent details a system that could see LEDs woven into a future HomePod’s fabric.
These LEDs would work alongside gesture controls to allow a user to “navigate” certain capabilities. But they could also serve as a more generalized “screen” for HomePod — displaying a clock or even certain symbols to represent current weather conditions. And some of the symbols it could display have to do with the mood of the user, as we’ll see in the following slides.
3D Air Gestures
One of the most interesting technologies in the patent is a series of camera and sensors that could be embedded in a future HomePod. This camera and sensor suite would allow users to interact with the smart speaker with various hand gestures, as well as other “three-dimensional gesture input.” The patent specifically describes gestures like waving and clapping.
While this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Apple patent similar hand gesture technology, it is the first time gesture-based controls have been mentioned in relation to HomePod. And gesture-based controls would obviously give users more ways to interact with HomePod beyond voice commands.
Text and Voice "Tone" Analysis
Siri’s intelligence and capabilities have long been a significant reason why HomePod has fallen behind other competitors. While the patent doesn’t necessarily go into detail about potential Siri upgrades, it does hint at some added capabilities that could come to the digital assistant.
At one point, the patent describes how Siri could analyze a user’s voice and determine their mood or emotion. On the flip side, another portion of the patent details how Siri may be able to analyze the “tone” of an email and read it back to users while displaying an appropriate visual LED indicator (email senders could even pick which emotion they’d like Siri to display).
Visual "Emoji" Siri
While the patent contains some interesting and undoubtedly useful ideas, it also describes more quirky ones. One example is an “emoji” version of Siri that could display emotion and adapt to a user’s mood (such as a happy face when reading a happy email, per the last slide).
That’s notable because Siri, and most other digital assistants, don’t typically have a visual avatar.
Presumably, emoji Siri would be able to detect a user’s mood by analyzing their voice or perhaps their facial expressions — made possible via the aforementioned cameras and voice analysis technology. If a user is sad, the Siri emoji may look happy or suggest happy music in an attempt to cheer them up.
Face ID Security
The addition of cameras and other sensors could allow for gesture-based controls, but they may bring another Apple platform to HomePod: Face ID.
The patent describes a smart speaker with advanced facial recognition, presumably by adding a TrueDepth platform into the suite of cameras.
HomePod could then use Face ID for a variety of applications. It could, for example, determine which user is standing next to it and switch “profiles” based on that. Or it could figure out if a HomePod’s primary owner is nearby. If they are, HomePod would grant access to messages, notes, reminders and other data. If the owner isn’t, it could block access to that sensitive information.