Apple HomePod

Apple’s HomePod smart speaker.

The Particle Debris article of the week comes from Zac Hall at 9to5Mac.

Zac recounts the history of Apple’s HomePod. The product has made some strides, but, somehow, seems to me destined to remain an off-the beaten-path product and has had a hard time flourishing. Zac writes;

While the future roadmap for HomePod isn’t being broadcasted by Apple, we can look back at HomePod’s progress so far and see that Apple’s smart speaker is steadily becoming more capable — even if HomePod isn’t matching the pace of feature rollouts of other smart speakers.

In any case, most customers who take the plunge love it. Zac reports that Apple’s promised features have been delivered.

My own view is that Apple’s grand experiment of combining great audio tech with a smart speaker/AI was nicely implemented but somehow didn’t resonate with the mass market. And that’s okay—if Apple is happy with that. Meanwhile, Apple is learning a lot about the market for smart speakers.

• In light of the above, see the Loup Ventures report: “Annual Smart Speaker IQ Test.” I noted the strides Siri has made in just a year.

More Debris

• One of the reasons why it’s hard to navigate to concrete, technical truth is the incessant doctoring of the truth through marketing. Marketing is all about putting a great, even fanciful, face on products even when the product has problems. Often a little bit of mild (according to the marketing) or extreme (according to watchdogs) deception is involved. Critical thinking skills are required to combat marketing. Here’s a case in point. “AT&T will put a fake 5G logo on its 4G LTE phones.

• Another factor that affects our technical judgment is the depth of the author.
Very technical articles are instructive, but the lay reader needs a different kind of framework in order to digest modern technology. That’s why it pays to read many different perspectives with different messaging techniques. Here are two opposing 5G views for your consideration as we move into 2019.

• This next article summarizes something I’ve discused before. As AIs get better, they’ll become more personal and influential. It will require a new type of human judgment to interact with persuasive AIs. See: “‘Kill your foster parents’: Amazon’s Alexa talks murder, sex in AI experiment.

• Apple appears to be taking the potential and risks of AI very seriously. That’s why “John Giannandrea named to Apple’s executive team.” Apple writes:

“John hit the ground running at Apple and we are thrilled to have him as part of our executive team,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Machine learning and AI are important to Apple’s future as they are fundamentally changing the way people interact with technology, and already helping our customers live better lives. We’re fortunate to have John, a leader in the AI industry, driving our efforts in this critical area.”

Governments will have to get a lot smarter about robotics and AI as well. Here are some early warnings about the tech war between nations and also some recommendations. “Slowing the robot apocalypse.

I, Robot (the movie)

An instrument of tech war? (From the movie, I, Robot.)

• Recently, I discovered this advisory organization, the Robotics Caucus, but I haven’t had a chance to contact them yet to really see what they’re all about. Next year.

• If you’d like to start reading up on AI yourself, see: “The 10 best books about A.I.

• Finally, remember when we made fun of Microsoft? Laughed at Steve Ballmer? At one time, Windows XP and then Vista were a standing joke in the Apple world. But now, under CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has turned itself around, technically and financially. Quartz, as it does so well, tells the story. “This is the new Microsoft.

• Happy holidays to everyone! Particle Debris will return on January 4th.

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week followed by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

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John: First, Happy New Year. Looking forward to another year of thought-provoking PD posts. Regarding the HomePod, because of TMOs somewhat underwhelming reviews, I have avoided purchasing one for my home for the time being. I had resolved to test one out at the Apple Store on my next visit, which never happened as I tend to order direct from the online store (so little time). I really would like to know how they sound before I purchase one. This leads to the other issue, I had planned to get at least two; either to use in stereo, which has… Read more »