Voice assistants in smartphones, with the power of artificial intelligence (AI) behind them, are big these days. Everyone seems to want to use them, and we all get very excited whenever something new is added to the voice-based virtual assistants in our phones. However, it has remained a challenge for Apple (as for the rest) to make people comfortable with the idea of communicating with a virtual being. The voice assistant on your iPhone, which has been around since the iPhone 4S, is finally starring in a movie called The Rock x Siri: Dominate the Day. It features Dwayne Johnson—who wrestling enthusiasts would know well as “The Rock", while the rest would remember him from his roles in Hollywood movies such as Empire State, the Fast & Furious franchise, Tooth Fairy, Faster and San Andreas, as well as the popular TV show Ballers.

Incidentally, the movie is now live on Apple’s YouTube channel, and is a short feature film that can perhaps also be classified as an elaborate commercial. The primary aim of the movie (apart from perhaps showcasing The Rock’s driving skills—filed under “do not try this at home") is to illustrate the use cases for Siri in everyday life. This includes finding the schedule, setting up an appointment, checking the weather for wherever it is that you are heading to, reading out emails, searching for photos, sending text messages, making quick conversions, playing music playlists as well as making FaceTime calls, among other things—all while simply speaking out the voice command to your phone, and getting a response with voice as well as text.

However, there is a method behind the movie. Apple hasn’t just tied up with Johnson to make a movie just for fun. This is perhaps the ideal time to reintroduce the powers of Siri to consumers, with competition from the likes of Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa is increasing every day.

Apple is releasing the HomePod—its own take on the smart speaker. The HomePod will land in the heated battle between Google’s Home and Amazon’s Echo speakers, and is expected that the Harman Kardon-manufactured Cortana-based speaker will carry the torch for Microsoft. Siri is the key ingredient of the HomePod, and it will be able to do every single task that the Siri virtual assistant can do on your phone, and a bit more.

The close integration with the Apple Music streaming service is perhaps entirely expected. It will work closely with your Apple Music subscription, and will have access to your playlists and a vast 40 million music library, to pull in more recommendations based on listening preferences.

A June 2017 survey by digital media and research company Morning Consult suggested that 19% of those who already own an Apple product, were interested in buying the HomePod, once it rolls out later this year. The HomePod runs the Apple A8 chip, also seen in iPhones, and can become the smart home control hub too. And this is Apple’s attempt at making a smart speaker that can potentially be better than everything Google, Amazon and even phone makers such as Samsung (with Bixby) are trying to do.

The HomePod will arrive with a price tag of $349 (around Rs22,475).

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