Apple is planning to release a version of its digital
assistant on its laptops and desktops, according to a recent patent filing. The company's mobile
assistant, Siri, was first released in 2011, but so far has only been available for iOS devices.
Beyond the relatively limited voice commands Siri is able to execute on the iOS, the filing suggests the OS X version will feature significant new functionality and capabilities, including some that could have major impacts on user productivity.
On Thursday, the United States Patent Office published a 92-page patent application from Apple that describes voice dictation software similar to iOS’ Siri, but with much more functionality and designed to work on the OS X platform. The patent, titled "Intelligent Digital Assistant in a Desktop Environment" was originally filed in February.
Talk, Touch or Type
According to the document, users will be able to interact with the desktop digital assistant using voice commands, as they can with Siri on the iOS, and hand gestures. The application offers the example of a user tracing circular patterns on the trackpad of his laptop as one way the assistant could be launched.
Beyond Siri’s current capabilities, users will be able to give the OS X version voice commands in combination with existing keyboard and mouse commands and onscreen elements. A user could, for example, ask the assistant to copy, paste or delete highlighted text.
Siri Lends a Third Hand
Users will also be able to use the assistant to execute parallel or background commands. In a section of the filing titled “Using Digital Assistant as Third Hand," Apple describes how someone could select items to be dragged to a new folder while commanding the assistant to simultaneously create the new folder, saving the user from having to switch back and forth between multiple windows. The assistant could also be instructed to stop or start a music player running in the background while continuing to type in a word processing application, without having to interrupt his workflow.
Like the iOS version of Siri, the desktop version would need to communicate with Apple's servers to understand and respond to users’ queries. According to the filing, the assistant will be able to distinguish between speech intended as dictation and that intended to, say, begin a Web search.
The new digital assistant was not included in the public beta for Yosemite released in July. It is unclear when Apple would consider releasing the software, but presumably the new feature could be released in the update to Yosemite, which is due to roll out in the fall.
Microsoft recently announced plans for its own digital assistant, dubbed Cortana. Google has also dipped its toe into the personal assistant space when it acquired messaging app Emu, which uses location and other data to add relevant information to messages. Emu was headed by CEO Gummi Hafsteinsson, who had previously worked on Siri for Apple.