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Apple's Echo rival could see you with built-in camera

TRAN TIEN LUC

Apple's rival to the Echo could know who you are just by looking at you.

The consumer electronics giant has explored putting a camera in its device, which could come in the form of a smart speaker like Amazon's Echo, according to people familiar with Apple's plans. The device would be "self aware" and detect who is in the room using facial recognition technology. That would let the device automatically pull up a person's preferences, such as the music and lighting they like, the sources said.

The hardware could be released by year's end, but it's more likely to be available in 2017. They cautioned, though, that Apple could change its plans to include a camera -- or even scrap the device entirely.

Apple declined to comment.

Your home is increasingly turning into a battleground for tech giants looking to sell you new, connected gadgets. It's part of an emerging area called the Internet of Things, which links together just about anything that plugs into an electrical outlet so the devices can communicate with one another.

Thanks to the Echo and its built-in voice assistant called Alexa, Amazon is already playing a central role in that transition in people's homes. Apple finds itself behind the pack even though it launched Siri before digital assistants came into vogue.

Neither the Echo nor Google's recently announced device, Google Home, currently have cameras. They're both voice-activated speakers that let you control your home appliances by speaking commands aloud. Apple's device also will obey voice commands through Siri, The Information reported earlier this week.


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