By their very nature smart speakers need to constantly listen to you, but having a machine directly linked to a major corporation when it could be harvesting private information feels like an invasion of privacy.
All of the major manufacturers of smart speakers claim that you aren't really being listened to, not in the way that everyone seems to fear, but to assuage these fears, there are mute functions for the microphones in many smart speakers, and now we seem to have confirmation that Apple's upcoming HomePod will also have the ability to mute its mics.
The reveal comes from a Twitter user called Filipe Espósito, who describes himself as an "Apple specialist and soon-to-be professional journalist." While digging around in the image assets accompanying iOS 11.2.5, Espósito found a number of icons that point towards different "scenes" the alter the functionality of the HomePod, including mute functions.
Siri, What Do These Pictures Mean?
At the moment the exact meaning behind these images is a matter of speculation, but since mute icon is a fairly universal symbol it's a safe bet that this is what it does. Obviously it could mean a mute of the speakers rather than the mic, but Espósito does mention the ability to disable Siri.
It's not yet clear whether this mute functionality is hardware or software based. The Amazon Echo's mute button is a hardware switch, which means that a hacker could never un-mute the speaker using a software exploit. This is an important security feature of the speaker.
In a further comment, he also confirms that he's found some data strings that point towards multiple accounts for voice.
Apple's HomePod was originally supposed to see a December 2017 release, but it was pushed back and we're now expecting to see it hit shelves in the next few weeks, with a supplier suggesting it could ship in February.
Aside from the mute icon, the meaning behind the other images are a little harder to discern. There are some obvious ones, like the HomePod, mute icon and lamp, which we'd assume is some kind of ‘shut up I'm working' function. More obscure are the image of a single fried egg and box of popcorn which we're wondering if Apple put in there just because they knew this exact thing was going to happen.
The icons do appear again with the house icon, the stickman walking towards the house and the Apple TV icon, so it's possible that it's a geolocation setting of ‘when I'm arriving home turn the TV on, put the lights in movie mode...and fry me an egg?'
I guess for some of them we'll just have to wait and see. Hopefully the rumors are right, because February isn't too long to wait.
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