Apple exploring improved, contextual voice commands for iPhone

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Apple could improve voice commands on the iPhone by making them contextualized, asking users to select, by hand, an application before dictating commands aloud.



The new voice control method is described in a patent application from Apple made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Discovered by AppleInsider, the patent entitled "Contextual Voice Commands" aims to make voice control of a device more reliable and efficient.



Relying on a combination of quick physical inputs as well as voice commands, Apple's proposed system would allow for contextual input on an application-by-application basis. This would narrow the voice command possibilities in any given application, as opposed to a system-wide method that has a large number of options.



"By using contextual voice commands, a user can execute desired operations faster than by navigating through a set of nested menu items," the filing reads. "Also, contextual voice commands can be used to teach the device to accurately predict the intent of the user from a single voice command. Further, contextual voice commands can be used to vary the manner in which the user provides the voice input based on the context of the device being used."



By having the user select an application and narrow the potential voice commands, a device like an iPhone would be less likely to be "confused." Also, for a user who may be driving a car, requiring them to simply select the e-mail application is much simpler and safer than actually typing out a note.



"Contextual voice commands can be more precise than conventional voice commands that merely control the device as a whole," the application states. "For example, different context specific voice commands can be implemented based on user activity or application in use."







Using this method, Apple would also be able to allow third-party applications to rely on voice commands as well. The application notes that an application programming interface (API) related to a contextual voice command module could be provided to developers, allowing their application to be controlled by voice.



In addition to an iPhone or another portable device with a touchscreen, the patent filing also notes that contextual voice commands could also be used with a Mac or another traditional computer. In this method, users would select a program on screen with a mouse cursor.







Apple's method could also provide visual or audible cues to the user, notifying them what application has been selected or providing a list of potential voice commands. For example, operations such as "compose, reply, forward, read, save, copy, paste, search" and more could be displayed on the screen in an e-mail application, or read aloud to the user.



The application, released this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed in June of 2009. The proposed invention is credited to Marcel Van Os, Gregory Novick, and Scott Herz.







The application is particularly noteworthy because earlier this year, Apple acquired Siri, the maker of a personal assistant application for the iPhone. The free Siri application, available on the App Store, relies on voice commands to accomplish tasks from multiple sources of information, such as making reservations at a restaurant, or buying tickets to a movie.



With Siri, voice queries are provided in "natural" English, as a person would use in a conversation. Questions such as "What's happening this weekend around here?" would provide local events, and a follow-up query of "How about in San Francisco?" would change the location.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 36
    It's been a year.. I wonder if we'll see Siri integrated into the next iOS version.. Apple bought them for a ($100M) reason..
  • Reply 2 of 36
    The Nexus S has this feature and it's coming out in a few weeks, but I think it's not as refined as Apple's approach though.
  • Reply 3 of 36
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    This is one of only a couple areas I think iOS is lacking.
  • Reply 4 of 36
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MarkJones View Post


    The Nexus S has this feature and it's coming out in a few weeks, but I think it's not as refined as Apple's approach though.



    Actually, voice commands are available in Froyo (2.2) - http://www.google.com/mobile/voice-actions/ . There were a few new ones added in 2.3 (such as setting alarms).
  • Reply 5 of 36
    tjwtjw Posts: 216member
    To post an apple fanboy style comment....





    Copying android. Why do apple have to copy google? Kinda funny how when I mentioned voice actions as a feature of android lacking on iPhone the response I got was "voice commands are crap anyway"



    Shape of things to come I guess: apple playing catch up to google.
  • Reply 6 of 36
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tjw View Post


    To post an apple fanboy style comment....





    Copying android. Why do apple have to copy google? Kinda funny how when I mentioned voice actions as a feature of android lacking on iPhone the response I got was "voice commands are crap anyway"



    Shape of things to come I guess: apple playing catch up to google.



    So far, all voice commands I’ve used on phones have been pretty bad. iOS has some okay aspects, but it too is severely lacking so when someone states that a feature is “crap” that is not the same as saying it will always be “crap” and no one should ever try to make it better.
  • Reply 7 of 36
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tjw View Post


    To post an apple fanboy style comment....





    Copying android. Why do apple have to copy google? Kinda funny how when I mentioned voice actions as a feature of android lacking on iPhone the response I got was "voice commands are crap anyway"



    Shape of things to come I guess: apple playing catch up to google.



    Mac OS X has had voice commands since the early 1990s.
  • Reply 8 of 36
    tjwtjw Posts: 216member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella View Post


    Mac OS X has had voice commands since the early 1990s.



    yes, a different type of voice commands that are interpreted with a shitty piece of local software and a dictionary.



    Google are the first people to make voice commands that are actually useful by sending recordings to be processed in the cloud by cutting edge NLP algorithms, something that is no where near possible on a local device.
  • Reply 9 of 36
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Google discovered the same thing, I think, trying to voice index their videos. If you try to do General speech recog, it is sh*t. But a limited vocab, a limited domain, today's tech is up to it. They have found they can index news broadcasts alone quite efficiently. In the case of voice dialing there is a limited number of people in your address book so the computer can do it.



    Maybe in future voice recog will be the crunchies, but for now we must use it where we reliably can, and no further.
  • Reply 10 of 36
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tjw View Post


    Google are the first people to make voice commands that are actually useful by sending recordings to be processed in the cloud by cutting edge NLP algorithms, something that is no where near possible on a local device.



    How is that a “voice command”?
  • Reply 11 of 36
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    How is that a ?voice command??



    Watch this video for a demo - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGbYVvU0Z5s



    The phone records your audio, sends it to Google for processing, and receives the processed data. The phone then takes the appropriate action, such as sending an SMS, emailing, calling, opening a map, etc. It's pretty slick. I use this feature all the time on my Android phone.
  • Reply 12 of 36
    jetzjetz Posts: 1,293member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by derekmorr View Post


    I use this feature all the time on my Android phone.



    Same here. Very handy when driving. Could never send an SMS before while driving. Now it's one long press and speak.



    It'll be interesting to see how Apple implements voice commands. I'm excited to see how they do it. And hopefully, they'll push the tech forward.
  • Reply 13 of 36
    jetzjetz Posts: 1,293member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    How is that a ?voice command??



    How is where the command is processed relevant? Why does it matter if the processing is done on the device or on the cloud? FWIW, I've found Google's implementation much better than anything else I've tried (including the iPhone) and I can only surmise that this is because of the power of the cloud. Kudos to Apple though if they can pull off the same capability on-device.
  • Reply 14 of 36
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jetz View Post


    It'll be interesting to see how Apple implements voice commands. I'm excited to see how they do it. And hopefully, they'll push the tech forward.



    Apple has voice control in iOS - http://www.apple.com/iphone/features/voice-control.html



    Voice Control supports fewer commands, but many more languages. Sadly, Voice Actions on Android only support U.S. English.
  • Reply 15 of 36
    I've tried doing some of the more obvious voice interactions with my iphone - sending an SMS while driving, composing an email, etc. It's tedious at best and still involves a LOT of application switching and typing; not something I recommend while driving.



    I have yet to try any of the pay services that allow me to do these, but the more I think about it (and the more I find myself itching to use my iPhone while driving...) the more I think it might be worth it.



    I hope this is the "next killer ap" for the idevices and I hope it's soon.



    What is everyone's experiences using the paid apps that do SMS and email via voice please?
  • Reply 16 of 36
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tjw View Post


    yes, a different type of voice commands that are interpreted with a shitty piece of local software and a dictionary.



    Google are the first people to make voice commands that are actually useful by sending recordings to be processed in the cloud by cutting edge NLP algorithms, something that is no where near possible on a local device.



    ...Your cloud is not available. Clouding is nice as long as you have robust access, marginalized connectivity or interruptions in service immediately disable your lovely command controls. Google is set-up to provide fairly robust cloud services and we will see more capacity as they build out support for the Chrome OS, but ask any BB user what happens when the cloud is offline and you get the drift. Or you forget to pay your cell bill, or a hurricane takes out a coverage area - how much do you want to have to rely on cloud when there are so many vulnerabilities? How about someone deciding a DDOS is in the works because they're pissed about something Google has done? The network infrastructure serving public use is not as robust as you need for reliable voice control to depend on. Now if you setup a tiered structure where simple commands are locally resident and more complex controls are clouded, then you at least retain some level of serviceability. And no Google are NOT the first people to make voice commands that are actually useful - please leave the hyperbole for the actual Android/Google fora, not here.
  • Reply 17 of 36
    Android has excellent voice reconition now. It is certianly ahead of iOS on this feature. I use the text and email feature all of the time...



    Also, Being able to press the mic button on the phone's keypad anytime you want to enter text is a sweet feature....



    I hope iOS does at least as good of a job on this....
  • Reply 18 of 36
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sranger View Post


    Android has excellent voice reconition now. It is certianly ahead of iOS on this feature. I use the text and email feature all of the time...






    A monkey operating my phone would be better than the IOS voice commands. They have about a 5% success rate for me. It's so bad, I downloaded a tweak to remove them. Voice commands are the biggest failure I've seen apple make since allowing clones. Horrible, absolutely horrible.



    Sheldon
  • Reply 19 of 36
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tjw View Post


    yes, a different type of voice commands that are interpreted with a shitty piece of local software and a dictionary.



    Google are the first people to make voice commands that are actually useful by sending recordings to be processed in the cloud by cutting edge NLP algorithms, something that is no where near possible on a local device.



    My point wasn't who is doing it better. That will continue to change every year for the foreseeable future.



    My point was that Apple has been doing it since Andy Rubin was in diapers.

    Apple has a long history of innovation.

    Google has a short history of acquisition.
  • Reply 20 of 36
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tjw View Post


    ...

    Shape of things to come I guess: apple playing catch up to google.



    Mac OS had speech recognition long before Google even existed.



    Android is doomed because the Oracle lawsuit has merit and there is legal precedent. Clear violation of the Java license agreement by using a clone (Dalvik JVM) of the real JVM. If you're not 100% compliant, you're in violation. Period.



    Microsoft was forced to pay Sun $20 million as the result of a similar Java breach of contract lawsuit. And if you're hoping that Larry Ellison will settle out of court and allow Google to continue to ship a non-compliant version of Java on Android, think again. The language of the Oracle suit requires all Android software to be "impounded and destroyed."



    Maybe that's why Google is hedging its bets with Chrome OS. Because they know Android is doomed.
Sign In or Register to comment.