The company that assembles Apple’s HomePod smart speaker, Inventec Appliances, said last week that it expects features offered by 3D-sensing cameras to eventually be available on smart speakers. That would include facial and image recognition that could make the product “more convenient and…easier to use,” according to Inventec Appliances president David Ho. The executive did say that he isn’t sure that a smart speaker with AI would be in demand by consumers.While Ho didn’t mention Apple’s HomePod by name, he did say that Inventec Appliances is also producing a voice enabled smart speaker by the end of the year. That could be Apple’s new device, which is expected to launch next month at a price of $349. He also pointed out that his company manufactures smart speakers for more than one client, and he noted that some of those units were already shipped in the middle of the year.
According to Arthur Liao, an analyst at Taipei-based Fubon Securities, supply-chain data suggests that Apple will make 4 million units of the HomePod for 2018. The analyst, however, isn’t sure that there will be demand for that many units. Liao also predicts that Apple will ship 20 million AirPods this year, rising 50% to 30 million units next year. Inventec Appliances also manufacturers the wireless Bluetooth powered ear buds. The latest speculation has China’s Luxshare Precision Industry also producing AirPods for Apple next year, while Foxconn will be joining the team building the HomePod.
As for when we might see a HomePod with 3D-sensing capabilities, Yuanta Investment Consulting analyst Jeff Pu predicts that a HomePod with 3D sensing could hit the market by 2019.