Apple’s vision for the future could involve an autonomous robot butler. That’s according to a new Bloomberg report which claims the iPhone maker is reallocating resources from its now defunct car project and shifting them towards an at-home, mobile robot. Though still in the early stages of research, the possible autonomous robot highlights Apple’s resparked interest in AI-enabled technology

The proposed robot, Bloomberg says, is intended for home use and could follow its users around. Apple engineers are reportedly considering using AI models to help the robot navigate through rooms. Presumably, that means it would also need cameras or other onboard sensors to see the world around it. 

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Sources speaking with Bloomberg say Apple engineers are interested in a fully autonomous robot that can take care of everyday chores like cleaning up and washing dishes. The feasibility of that actually happening in the near term, however, remains technically challenging. Apple is reportedly also interested in having the robot function as a kind of mobile video conferencing tool. 

There’s still far more questions than answers about the supposed Apple bot. It’s unclear, for example, whether it will roll around on wheels like Amazon’s Astro home robot, or if it will follow the rising trend of bipedal robots that are shaped more like humans. It’s also unclear exactly  how it would complete its tasks , when it will ship, or how much it would cost. It’s entirely possible the robot, like many other early stage product ideas, may never see the light of day. Other unrealized Apple ideas left to the dustbin of history include a “AirPower” wireless charging mat and early tablet-like prototype supposedly capable of sending and receiving faxes. 

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Without more details, one can only speculate how an Apple bot may one day be put to use. Could it follow in the footsteps of past robots capable of assembling a salad? Or maybe it could give its users a relaxing massage or simply open a carton of eggs, as past robots have done. Other “assistance robots” are also being developed to guide people with vision loss and help people with dementia find lost objects. It’s unclear if Apple intends to enter those spaces. Apple did not immediately respond to PopSci’s request for comment. 

Apple reportedly shifting from cars to robots  

News of the alleged Apple robot comes just two months after the company officially ended its electric vehicle ambitions. The car project, known publicly as “Titan,” dated back to at least 2014 but was plagued by leadership shakeups and repeated delays. Many of the roughly 2,000 Apple employees working on the car were reportedly folded into the company’s other AI-related projects. Some of the insights and technology developed for the car, Bloomberg notes, could end up making its way into robots, if it’s in fact ever released.

The supposed robot project further signals Apple’s interest in tapping into AI products. Apple has faced criticism in recent months for looking like a generative AI laggard compared to top tech competitors like Google and Microsoft. To that end, the company is now reportedly in “active negotiations” with Google to bring its Gemini AI model to future iPhones. An AI-enabled robot, if successful, presents Apple with a unique opportunity to lean further into AI doing what they do best: seamlessly integrating hardware and software. 

Integrated large language can help robots interact with humans 

At home robots aren’t entirely new. iRobot, the company behind the popular Roomba  autonomous vacuum cleaner claims it has sold more than 40 million of the devices worldwide. Amazon is also pursuing its own, more advanced at robot primarily used for home monitoring. Those robots, however, are far less sophisticated than what could be around the corner. Robotics firms like Figure are already taking advanced language models and integrating them into bipedal, humanoid machines capable of performing tasks and holding a conversation. Figure recently partnered with BMW to bring its robots to a South Carolina manufacturing facility where it will move sheet metal and perform other tasks. Amazon is reportedly already testing humanoid robots in some of its warehouses. 

An Apple robot, if it ever materializes, will likely follow the trend of integrating large language models into advanced robotics in order to effectively communicate with its owner. Whether or not customers will actually welcome such a device into their homes remains to be seen. 61% of adults surveyed in 2021 by the Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank,said they were uncomfortable with robots. More than a third (37%) of adults polled by Pew Research said they were “more concerned than excited” regarding the prospect of more AI used in daily life.