Apple's future smart home ambitions leverage robotics, and go far beyond simple HomeKit lights

By Charles Martin

Apple is said to be considering future products that make it easier to consolidate information from other smart home devices, and a room assistant that could point a screen at you constantly, as you move around the space.

An artist's rendition of a HomePod with a display

Apple continues to have grand ambitions for more products in the smart-home category, reports Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. One fairly obvious future idea would be a revamped Apple TV set-top box with a built-in camera for video conferencing.

Another is said to be a lightweight "smart display" that would gather data from home devices, and could more easily be carried by users with them and docked with charging hubs around the house. The device is said to be akin to a low-end iPad.

Apple has allegedly started small-scale testing on the project. Like any rumor, though, it may or may not ever ship.

Another idea that has been floated in rumors for some time, similar to what's being proposed in Sunday's report, is a HomePod with a connected screen. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo was an advocate of the idea, but has recently walked back predictions that such a device would appear this year.

The company is also likely to develop new product ideas from technology repurposed from the abandoned Apple Car project. CarPlay 2, for example, has integration with a vehicle's controls, which could transfer to increased smart-home control through the iPhone and iPad.

And, the artificial intelligence and machine learning developed for the car are an easy transfer to mobile robots.

Recent rumors have suggested that Apple is also considering an entry into robotics. The report mentions a table-top product that might use a robotic arm to move a display around to follow the user, perhaps similar to the iMac G4 arm -- just automated. This could allow more freedom to move beyond what the Center Stage camera feature currently allows.

The arm and display could also be used like the Personas of Apple Vision Pro users, with the display itself moving to simulate nodding or shaking one's head. Both products are said to be under consideration and early feasibility testing, but no final decisions have been made.