Apple has released a video featuring its HomePod speaker. I hesitate to call it an advertisement, because it isn’t quite an ad. It is something closer to a short film or music video. If you haven’t clicked the link to watch it (And, if you haven’t, why haven’t you?), it is a Spike Jonze directed performance — FKA twigs dancing to “’Til It’s Over” by Anderson .Paak. In the performance, she expands her narrow apartment at the end of a dispiriting day through her dance.
First things first: I enjoyed the art — both the music and the dance.
I did want to point out a not-so-subtle subtext to the video. Her narrow apartment expands through the music and her dance — an obvious nod to Apple’s description of the HomePod as producing room filling sound — the kind of audio reproduction that makes you get up and move.
I think there is something else here, though — something near and dear to this English Professor’s heart. Apple has, on more than one occasion, explicitly stated that it tries to exist at the intersection of technology and the Liberal Arts and that technology alone is not enough. Steve Jobs’ assertion, during the iPad2 announcement, that those who just look at the “speeds and feeds” miss something important about a post-PC device. Currently, a lot of tech journalists are critiquing the HomePod because Siri doesn’t do as well as they want.
That is, ultimately, a “speeds and feeds” critique.
Apple was not trying to manufacture the Star Trek computer with a HomePod. It was trying to manufacture a device that would make you want to get up and dance because the music was good enough to transport you.
While I have not been watching out for the reviews of the Amazon Echo or Google Home, I don’t recall tech journalists asking if these speakers were producing an experience that made you want to get up and dance after spending a long day in places that feel oppressive and confining — as the world that FKA twigs is made to appear. But if the HomePod offers people in those worlds that kind of experience, it will be far more valuable than a device that can more conveniently set two timers or tell you what the GDP of Brazil was in 2010.