Apple has been secretly building home robots that could end up as a new product line, report says

  • Apple is exploring home robots in an effort to create its next major product, Bloomberg reported.

  • It's working on a mobile robot that can follow users and a smart display one, per the report.

  • The exploration of these devices comes after Apple killed its self-driving car project.

Apple is in the early stages of looking into making home robots, a move that appears to be an effort to create its "next big thing" after it killed its self-driving car project earlier this year, sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

Engineers are looking into developing a robot that could follow users around their houses, Bloomberg reported. They're also exploring a tabletop at-home device that uses robotics to rotate the display, a more advanced project than the mobile robot.

The idea behind the smart display robot is to mimic a person's head movement, such as reacting during a FaceTime session. It would also include a feature that zooms in on a particular person in a crowd during a video call. This device initially caught the attention of senior Apple executives years ago, though they've disagreed over whether to continue with the project, Bloomberg said.

The report about Apple's new efforts comes after a series of recent blows to the company. Since the start of 2024, Apple has been hit with declining iPhone sales in China, a nearly $2 billion fine from the EU, and an antitrust lawsuit from the DOJ.

It also scrapped its decadeslong, multi-billionaire car effort, Project Titan, earlier this year, shifting its focus to building AI products. Apple has been criticized as lagging behind companies like OpenAI, Microsoft, and Google, which have all released chatbots.

The bet on home robots could be an attempt to regain its new-product mojo eventually. The company reportedly started exploring robotics in 2019. At the time, Doug Field, now an EV executive at Ford, was leading the project and was joined by leaders across the home product space to work on things like quiet indoor drones.

After Field left the company in 2021, Bloomberg says Apple's robotics efforts zeroed in on domestic products. One idea Apple explored was a robot that could do chores like washing dishes and be used for video calls. However, the concept was shelved because of engineering obstacles, according to Bloomberg.

It's not yet clear whether Apple's robots will make it to consumers. But Apple appears to have laid some groundwork. At least one engineer who used to be on the car project's hardware team has been moved to the home and robotics division, according to Bloomberg. Sources also say that SafetyOS, the operating system that would've given the car self-driving capabilities, could technically be repurposed for robots.

Still, home robotics are nothing new. The Roomba, for instance, is a popular autonomous vacuum cleaner created by iRobot that Amazon tried to acquire in 2022. Smart speakers and thermostats are also common in people's homes. Meantime, Apple's latest non-robotic launch, the Vision Pro, has had mixed reviews.

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider before publication.

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