Apple’s big wow moments: a voice speaker and augmented reality

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Apple fans, don’t fear. The iPhone maker has finally jumped into two of the hottest tech trends of the last two years — augmented reality and voice-activated speakers, with a promise to dominate these markets pioneered by its rivals. Two years after Amazon introduced its sleeper hit Echo device, and a year after Google Home, Apple now has the voice-activated HomePod, a high-end music speaker priced at $349 that will be powered by Siri. That often maligned but widely used artificial intelligence assistant is also getting an upgrade, though for HomePod, Siri’s main task is clear: play music. Apple also unveiled a new augmented reality developer kit that would help Apple app developers integrate this technology that overlays digital images on the physical world, made popular by Pokemon Go. Facebook and Google have been showcasing such distorted reality tech at their own demos, with plans to revolutionize commerce and communication. Apple’s entrance into augmented reality on iPhone could jump-start the industry that’s mostly been a playground for games. The availability of AR technology on hundreds of millions of Apple’s mobile devices has the potential to help make iOS  “the largest AR platform in the world overnight,” CEO Tim Cook said. More: Apple has been playing catch-up on a variety of cutting-edge tech fronts, allowing competitors to take the lead on the next big computing platforms, all driven by artificial intelligence. In the case of both HomePod and ARKit, Apple is banking on fans of the brand potentially abandoning rival products in favor of whatever its in-house… [Read full story]

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