Behind Apple’s Siri Patent

On Thursday, the United States Patent and Trademark Office published Apple’s Siri patent application, which has been made available by Patently Apple.

According to the patent, the Siri that’s in the iPhone 4S is using just a fraction of the tools that were designed for it, and it’s equally obvious that Apple has plans to expand Siri’s functionality and add it to other Apple devices like laptops, vehicles, and TVs.

Siri was designed to be an intelligent automated assistant that could facilitate user interaction with a device and to help users engage with services and applications on that device. Siri engages the user in a conversational manner with natural dialog, and uses external services to obtain information and perform actions.

This is the technology that we see at work in the iPhone 4S, when Siri searches the web for answers to questions or opens other apps to schedule appointments and make notes. This has a wide range of uses, far beyond the iPhone. The patent states that Siri is able to be configured, designed, or operable to provide a wide range of operations and functions in any electronic device that it is installed on. In short, Siri is adaptable to many situations and devices.

What are some ways we may see Siri used in the future?

  • As a teacher or a guide. Siri could eventually come on all Apple devices, with the ability to teach new customers how to use them. Siri is able to provide instructions, directions, and tutorials, and explain the functions and services available on an electronic device. It’s the perfect manual replacement.
  • As an interface. Siri can potentially be used as a conversational interface, ie, telling her to launch an app or change a channel (in a potential Apple-branded TV), thereby replacing and simplifying traditional user interfaces. Siri could open web pages, follow links, listen to and transcribe text, read emails, and more. As mentioned above, Siri is programmable to interact with any app or program. Siri is also capable of both short and long term memory so that it can remember complex interactions to properly interpret user input in the right context given previous communications.
  • For smart messaging. Siri can be programmed to understand the context of a conversation. For example, if you call someone and then decide to text them afterwards, Siri will know who you want to text without you having to specify, so a command like “send him a text message,” will work properly.
  • For e-commerce. Siri can be programmed to provide assistance on a number of tasks, including giving movie times, flight and travel information, and assisting in online purchases of items. Siri can potentially choose, purchase, and reserve products and services based on user preference. It can also aggregate and take into account information from online review sites and do price comparisons.
  • For personalized recommendations. As described in one section of the patent, Siri can be configured to use the Internet to discover, investigate, and reserve things to do (movies, events, performances, attractions) and make recommendations about where to go, where to stay, what to see, and where to eat, all based on user preference.
  • For use in cars. A patent from Honda, also revealed today, shows that the company is working on a new interface system for car consoles that is designed to work with Apple’s iPhone and iPod. In the patent, it says that vehicle operators will be able to control components with a touch screen and through a voice control feature, which is potentially referring to Siri.

As you can see, Siri is capable of a lot more than merely dialing your phone and providing tongue-in-cheek answers to inappropriate questions. Apple’s patent has a list of devices that may use Siri someday: iPod Touch, iMac, Macbook, iPad, consumer electronic devices, consumer entertainment devices; iPod, camera, television; Apple TV (set-top); electronic gaming unit; kiosk or the like.

While we may not see Siri in all of these things, the technology exists to use the personal assistant on a wide range of devices and for a wide range of functions. If this patent is any indication, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of Siri in the future, and we will continue to be wowed by everything the personal assistant is able to do.

[via Patently Apple]

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