HomePod Will Soon Be Obsolete as Companion Robots Become Popular


The Apple HomePod and other intelligent speakers will soon be obsolete. Here’s why. The Robots are coming.

Intelligent speakers like Amazon’s Echo, Apple’s HomePod and Google Home are just the first wave of little devices that are internet connected and can chat with us. Because they’re about the size of a coffee can, or smaller, they aren’t very complicated.

kuri home robot
Mayfield Robotics Kuri

That’s a sensible way to get customers hooked on the technology at a modest cost.

But technology always evolves. Developers get their feet wet with some basic aspects of the technology, like voice recognition, while other more challenging aspects, say, mobility are held back while R&D continues. Just as we’ve seen from Apple, a well planned infrastructure leads to new capabilities down the road.

The logical extension of the intelligent speaker and its infrastructure is the robot companion.

HomePod Growth, then Decline

But wait. Dan Moren argues that the HomePod is just getting started. “Apple’s smart speaker has plenty of room to grow.” And he’s right. The capabilities of the HomePod will expand rapidly, just as we’ve seen with the Apple Watch in the last three years.

And yet, in parallel, there is a technology that I believe will eventually subsume these smart speakers. It’s the home companion robot. For some background, see: “Family Robot Companions Are Evolving Fast, Will Soon Be Common.” There, I wrote:

These robots don’t have to bring a giant bag of dog food in from the truck or carry the laundry upstairs. Instead, they just have to be cute, alert, expressive, good listeners, good companions and, most of all, affordable….

…Modest hardware, very fast processors, an internet connection, machine learning and AI software will play an extraordinary role if they’re fused together with a crisp vision and smart engineering. They’ll make the currently, in vogue, intelligent speakers seem like the 8-track tapes we dumped into the closet years ago.

When you think about the design of an intelligent speaker, it’s missing some essentials that customers will soon long for. It’s immobile, so it can’t do scouting and do remote-controlled telepresence. Some speakers have cameras, but you’d need one in every room. These speakers are not very expressive. The don’t connect with us via warmth and touch.

Who, being on crutches after a skiing accident, wants to sit next to a little brick all day. It’s not great companionship. Companion robots, with advanced designs for human interaction, will easily supercede smart speakers.

R2-D2While a companion robot like Kuri doesn’t yet carry on a conversation, I’ll bet it’s coming. And when it does, our little smart speaker bricks will start to feel like the early Personal Digital Assistants that were made obsolete by the modern smartphone.

The future belongs to expressive, cuddly, emotive, mobile companion robots like Kuri (and, of course R2-D2) and not plastic speakers on a bookshelf.

Next Page: The News Debris For The Week of February 19th. Apple’s annoying OS antics.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I hope they announce Beta year in WWDC.

No more major revision of iOS, no iOS 12, tvOS, macOS, etc. Instead we will get a small iOS 11.5 release.

Introducing OS Eleven, the successor to OSX that is powering every single Apple devices. OS Eleven will be the core of all Apple OS, using the latest technology and Swift 5. 64bit top to bottom. Major rework and depreciating APIs. And it will be released at later part of next year, a full year of Beta testing.


I have always enjoyed the satisfying “setting up your computer” graphic. And no, I don’t need to know the precise bits it is pushing around.

Mike Weasner

I’ll throw in another annoying and ineffective Apple UI item: When doing MacOS updates, after the restart you get taken to the screen that shows the “progress” of the update installation. For me, it never finishes calculating “time remaining”. If Apple can’t figure out how much time is remaining to do the installation then it should remove the wasted CPU cycles spent trying to do the calculations. It certainly doesn’t tell me anything useful when the progress bar stops moving about 4/5s into the install and no actual (and correct) time remaining shows. In fact, what it looks like it… Read more »


Sounds like you prefer your AI more like”Silent Running” rather than “2001: A Space Odyssey” ; )

W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

John: You’ve presented, intentionally or not, a representative number of topics for your weekly PD, but this week’s is different, at least to my reading, and I’d like to step back and take a 60,000 ft or perhaps even a LEO (low earth orbital) observation. Caveat lector: this topic is too complex for so cursory a treatment, but this fool rushes in where angels, and the wise, fear to tread. The horizon is bent. And, to paraphrase astronaut David Bowman, ‘My God! It’s full of…complexities’ (it’s hard to pass up a nod to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ whenever possible). What… Read more »

Lee Dronick

Well at least the subject of robots has got some comments and conversation going, too often good articals here go uncommented.


I tend to agree with the smart device in various parts of a home rather than a personal robot following me around. This type of system is far more economical than a personal robot. You don’t need mobility if the AI is all over the house. I also think the personal device will continue to be hand held or worn. A household with five people living together will not enjoy sharing their space with three to five personal robots running around. Or perhaps there will be one family robot with five people demanding its’ attention. Not likely. There will be… Read more »


Lol! Let me explain what happened, either you sniffed too much coke, or you took Concerta or you drank a strong cup of coffee, your neurons fired off and in that mood of excitement you started connecting dots like a iTunes library on shuffle mode. Smart speakers and gimmicky “robots”? Give me a break! Thats the kind of nonsense people who fantasize about the Jetsons become a reality do all day long -its called coveting, covering things of your vain imagination and thinking you can manipulate reality, talk about an obnoxious lunatic! Yea, I know you believe in the evolution… Read more »


Oh, John. I think your so wrong on this one! Most of the “tasks” that you are describing (as wanting a robot to do) are best done by a Home Central Computer System: a 2001 HAL ( non-malevolent). That Home System is going to come first and foremost and be more immediate and useful. Robots will come later (as they get good at doing their type of tasks), but they will be more of “accessories” to and “tools” of the Home System. I think we will have speakers and cameras (which we can choose to turn on and off) in… Read more »


Depending on what they do I think a mobile house robot could be very useful. I agree with you on a couple of points. The idea of a really big computer in the basement next to the furnace and terminals to access it and robots as portals for it makes a lot of sense. Keep the computing power remote. I see the industry moving that way with HomeKit devices being essentially dumb devices that are controlled by and report to your phone. As far as “I don’t think I really want a robot following me around and getting in the… Read more »


Apple may be just getting started but the rest of the world has been marketing AI and AR toys and devices for a while now. If Japan is any indication Companion Robots will be huge. They already sell in the tens of thousands over there and are just beginning to have many many competitors besides Honda Toyota and Sony… They won’t be gimmicks; they will be useful for older citizens that may live alone or in hospices. Whether they ambulate or not won’t be the most important feature; I presume the machine learning towards a capable verbal and visual interaction… Read more »


I think you are probably right about personal robots replacing smart speakers. I mean one of rhe complaints that always comes up is they are immobile. You need one in each room. I know the perfect model to go with. The Banana Junior 9000 from Bloom County. https://goo.gl/images/acWxun It even has the right attitude