What is happening with the Apple robots?

3rd May 2024
Sheryl Miles

According to a report by Bloomberg, Apple is exploring the idea of personal robotics. This shift comes after the cancellation of its electric car project and amidst ongoing development of its Vision Pro headset.

The exploration into robotics is considered a way for the tech giant to search for new revenue streams, and though it's early days, the project could indicate a bold pivot in Apple’s strategy.

Possible robots from Apple

Apple's robotics exploration is led by its hardware engineering division and AI and machine learning group, headed by AI chief John Giannandrea. The company is reportedly focusing on two types of robotic devices: a mobile robot and a table-top smart display.

Mobile robot: this device, akin to an iPad on wheels, would follow users around their homes, assisting with tasks like FaceTime calls, home monitoring, and providing answers to queries. The robot would also feature advanced AI algorithms to navigate through cluttered home environments. Despite the excitement, the complexity of creating a robot capable of performing household chores suggests that this technology might not emerge this decade.

Table-top robot: the second project involves a robotic motor on a stand, designed to move a display during FaceTime calls, mimicking head movements and focusing on individuals during group calls. Although further along than the mobile robot, this project has faced issues with weight, balance, and consumer value perception, causing it to be periodically sidelined.

Potential areas for Apple's robotic exploration

Given Apple's historical strengths, there are several areas ripe for its entry into robotics:

Home assistants: building on its expertise in AI with Siri, Apple could create sophisticated robotic home assistants that integrate with its ecosystem, enhancing the smart home experience.

Entertainment and educational robots: leveraging its strong presence in digital content, Apple could develop robots that provide interactive and educational experiences, especially for children, incorporating elements from Apple TV+ and Apple Music.

Health and wellbeing robots: reflecting on its innovation in health technology via the Apple Watch, there is potential for robots focused on health monitoring and elderly care, extending Apple's health technology into proactive home healthcare.

Smart home integration: robots that manage smart home devices could offer advanced home automation, including security and energy management, echoing Apple's emphasis on privacy and security.

Barriers to entry

Apple's robotic ventures would place it in direct competition with existing products like Amazon's Astro and Sony's Aibo. These devices, while innovative, represent the broader challenges of integrating robotics into everyday life – a market that is still in its nascent stages with substantial growth potential.

With the discontinuation of its automotive project and the ongoing development of its mixed-reality technologies, Apple is positioning itself to potentially disrupt the home robotics market. However, these initiatives are still in exploratory phases, and it remains to be seen whether they will evolve into commercially viable products.

As Apple continues to invest in AI and explore new technologies, its foray into robotics could well represent the next significant chapter in its storied history of innovation.

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