New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

It's turning to machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence, to make that happen. Evidently, Apple has a lot of catching up to do.

But while Amazon and Google have stressed the daily practicalities of the artificial intelligence assistants that run Echo and Home, Apple framed HomePod more as a music-listening platform, with practicalities like reminders and calendar nearly an after thought. And while no voice A.I. service is a true standout yet, Apple is considered a laggard behind Amazon's and Google's A.I. assistant efforts. Apple refers to the HomePod as the ideal musicologist.

The speaker will sell for about $350 in December in the US, United Kingdom and Australia.

The new gadget will be a direct rival to both the Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers. The speaker is similar to cheaper devices from Amazon and Google. However, the market for such devices is nascent and expected to grow by 129 percent this year to 35.6 million users.

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Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, also announced that Apple is working with Valve bring the Steam VR SDK to Metal, and the company is also adding support for Unity and Unreal Engine, the two most popular game engines for creating virtual reality content. Although that product came out after other smartwatches hit the market, it quickly outshone competitors, according to industry research firms.

The lack of a breakthrough device has periodically raised concerns that Apple has become too dependent on the iPhone.

The product has already entered development and was described at the conference by Apple executive Phil Schillert. Google and Amazon's comparable offerings will make that tricky. We'll be updating this article as and when we know more so please stay tuned.

Chief among those innovations is the Homepod, Apple's answer to Amazon's Echo and Google's Google Home.

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But for now, Apple is stuck hawking sound quality where many mainstream consumers can't tell the difference.

But as usual, Apple has remained mum on what it will announce. Augmented reality is the blending of the physical and virtual worlds. It also introduced autoplay blocking, which stops music and video from playing automatically without your permission on websites as well as "intelligent tracking prevention", which stops ads from following you around the web. They will be available in the coming week in a choice of three colours, starting at Dollars 695 for the 10.5-inch model with 64 GB memory and USD 799 for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

"HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a attractive speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion free music and be a helpful assistant around your home", said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior VP of worldwide marketing. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops. The new iPads also come with a redesigned Retina display featuring ProMotion, a new technology that delivers 120Hz refresh rates for smoother scrolling and motion, including with the Apple Pencil.

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