Apple's Siri-based Echo competitor could come with facial recognition camera, ship in 2017

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Apple's rumored Amazon Echo competitor could reportedly include a camera for facial recognition, but may have to wait until 2017 to hit store shelves.

Apple has explored the idea of having a camera automatically detect who's in a room, using this to load personal preferences in things like music or lighting, sources told CNET. This might be similar to the Kinect sign-in option for Microsoft's Xbox One, which lets multiple people share a console more easily.

With or without a camera, Apple's device could ship by year's end but is more likely to arrive in 2017, the sources said. The product is said to be in enough of a tentative state that Apple could still kill the project entirely.

Rumors about an Echo-like device first emerged on Tuesday, suggesting that Apple will use an enhanced Siri to respond to commands and questions, much like Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. Another parallel would stem from the Apple hardware's support for HomeKit, since the Echo can also be linked up with various smarthome accessories.

On Thursday however a report suggested that Apple might simply upgrade the Apple TV, putting a microphone and speaker into the set-top. Such a device might not be a true Echo competitor though, since without satellite microphone/speaker units it would only ever work in rooms with a TV.