Is this really Apple’s next big thing?

Amazon Astro robot.
Amazon’s Astro robot for the home. Amazon / Amazon

After abandoning work on the Apple Car, the tech giant is reportedly researching new areas for its “next big thing.”

While the creation of an Apple Car may have always seemed overly ambitious, the latest suggestion is that the company may now be working on something a little less challenging: “a mobile robot that can follow users around their homes.”

The news comes via prominent Apple tipster Mark Gurman, who received the update from people familiar with the matter.

It’s not clear if Apple is targeting something fairly basic along the lines of Amazon’s wheel-based Astro home robot — which can function as a security guard, communicate reminders, set up and display video chats, answer questions, and run a few basic errands, among other things — or something much more advanced.

“One pie-in-the-sky idea within Apple was having it be able to handle chores, like cleaning dishes in a sink,” Gurman wrote in his piece for Bloomberg. “But that would require overcoming extraordinarily difficult engineering challenges — something that’s unlikely this decade.”

He said that Apple engineers have also developed “an advanced table-top home device that uses robotics to move a display around.” A bit like Meta’s defunct Portal device, it means that during, say, a FaceTime call, the display would mimic the head movements — such as nodding — of the participant, while also having the ability to move and lock onto a single person in a group when they speak during a video call.

Notably, the robotic smart display idea has reportedly been in and out of favor at Apple over the years, but with technology like generative-AI advancing rapidly, there may be renewed interest in a robotic display that’s now able to utilize AI smarts.

The work is said to be in the early stages but, like the Apple Car, there’s no guarantee that these products will ever see the light of day. Indeed, key figures in Apple’s hardware engineering division have yet to commit to either project, according to Gurman.

He also revealed that Apple has a “secret facility” near its Cupertino, California campus that it has designed to look like the inside of a house, where it tries out proposed devices for the home.

It’s too early to say if Apple CEO Tim Cook will one day be taking the wraps off a little home robot, but the company’s current call for robot specialists suggests it’s looking seriously at the idea of utilizing the technology for future products.

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