Report: Apple's answer to the Amazon Echo inches closer to reality

A new report claims Apple engineers are testing the smart home device outside of Apple's secretive campus.

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Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

"Hey Siri, make me some coffee," may not be as far off as you think.

Apple's smart home platform, similar to that of the Amazon Echo, has moved out of research and development and is in now in testing in the homes of Apple engineers, according to Bloomberg.

Amazon Echo users can currently control appliances, lights, ask questions, set reminders, and purchase items through voice interaction with the speaker.

Apple's platform would provide similar functionality through Siri, the company's personal assistant found across Apple devices, including the Mac with the recent release of macOS Sierra.

Naturally, Apple's HomeKit platform and its expanding integration -- ranging from smart locks and thermostats to wireless security cameras -- would integrate nicely with such a platform.

In addition to familiar voice commands, Bloomberg claims Apple is testing prototype devices with facial recognition and the ability to identify a person's emotional state. The added functionality will help Apple tailor the experience based on who is in a given room.

This isn't the first time Apple has been rumored to included facial recognition in a smart home device. In May, CNET reported the unannounced device would react to who was in a given room by changing preferences through facial recognition.

ZDNet asked Apple for comment and will update the story if it receives one.

If Siri is going to end up being the centerpiece of our living room, Apple needs to vastly improve upon the digital assistant. Despite iOS 10 adding the ability for developers to integrate with Siri, it's still far too limited. For example, Siri is unable to set a timer on a Mac, asking me to create a reminder instead.

According to Bloomberg, Apple is also working on a project called "Invisible Hand". Through this project, Apple aims to provide full control over an iOS device through Siri. Tasks such as printing a PDF or sharing a web page strictly through voice commands are given as examples by Bloomberg.

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