Apple files patent for Siri-like desktop digital assistant

Apple files patent for Siri-like desktop digital assistant

Summary: Apple has filed a patent in the United States for a Siri-like digital assistant interface for a desktop environment.

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TOPICS: Apple, Emerging Tech
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Patent documents drawn up by Apple and published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office this week outline details for a Siri-like virtual digital assistant for a desktop environment.

Although Apple's Siri digital assistant has been available for iOS mobile device users since 2011, until now, the company had not made any overt moves to adapt such a service to its desktop OS X.

The exhaustive 92-page patent, filed in February, outlines the methods and systems related to interfaces for interacting with a digital assistant in a desktop environment.

"The embodiments disclosed herein provide methods, systems, computer readable storage medium and user interfaces for interacting with a digital assistant in a desktop environment," the documents said.

apple-patent-image-3
(Image: United States Patent and Trademark Office)

The patent outlines a digital assistant interface that is able to accept natural voice speech and text input to perform tasks such as conducting searches, inputting and compiling data, retrieving data, and dictation.

Although the patent is for a desktop environment, the input gesture methods outlined in the claims also call for contact using touch-sensitive surface on which, using a circular movement in the proximity of an iconic representation, a user can activate the digital assistant.

The patent documents make claims for the presentation of a dialogue interface of the digital assistant on display of the device, with the dialogue interface configured to present verbal exchanges between the user and the digital assistant.

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"Methods and systems related to interfaces for interacting with a digital assistant in a desktop environment are disclosed," the documents said. "In some embodiments, a digital assistant is invoked on a user device by a gesture following a predetermined motion pattern on a touch-sensitive surface of the user device."

The patent outlines the integrated use of an "input focus" such as a fingertip, mouse or track pad-controlled cursor icon, in order for the digital assistant to perform certain tasks.

"In some embodiments, a user device selectively invokes a dictation mode or a command mode to process a speech input depending on whether an input focus of the user device is within a text input area displayed on the user device," the documents said.

"In some embodiments, a digital assistant performs various operations in response to one or more objects being dragged and dropped onto an iconic representation of the digital assistant displayed on a graphical user interface. In some embodiments, a digital assistant is invoked to cooperate with the user to complete a task that the user has already started on a user device," they said.

Although the patent is exhaustive in its description of the methods and systems required for such a desktop virtual assistant, Apple's latest OS X 10.10 Yosemite betas do not have such functionality built-in, according to a report on AppleInsider, which first revealed the documents.

The new patent details come only a month after a lower court in China reached a verdict on July 8, 2014, against Apple by upholding the country's patenting authority's decision which protects the intellectual rights of Chinese company Zhizhen Network Technology over Xiaoi, an intelligent personal assistant similar to Siri.

On July 22, the US Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple patent for a device referred to as 'iTime', revealing some of the features that may be included in the company’s highly anticipated watch device.

Topics: Apple, Emerging Tech

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Leon covers enterprise technology and start-ups from ZDNet's Sydney newsroom.

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13 comments
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  • One guess who prompted that move

    A certain blue-faced female comes to mind.
    John L. Ries
    • To late Apple...

      Cortana will be part of Windows 9... Release April 2015.

      When OSX gets this feature it will already be old news!
      brhorv
      • You can say the same about Cortana vs Siri in mobile.

        But I don't think there will be big competition between the 2. Mac users will get a mac for many other different reasons, as a Windows user will get win machine regardless of siri or cortana.
        AleMartin
      • But...

        ...if the patent is granted and a plausible case can be made that Cortana violates it, then Apple has a weapon it can use to extort concessions out of MS. The expense of defending oneself against a patent infringement charge works against MS in this case.
        John L. Ries
        • I don't think it will bother MS in that case

          as Cortana exists, and Cortana on the desktop is more an extention of it, rather then a stand alone produc, as why isn't Apple going after MS for Cortana on Windows Phone, seeing that they had Siri on iPhones earlier?
          William.Farrel
          • Really?

            William.Farrel said "why isn't Apple going after MS for Cortana on Windows Phone, seeing that they had Siri on iPhones earlier?"

            Apple purchased Siri... and it wasn't their first choice. Siri was an app in both the Apple iTunes Store and the Google Market Store (I had Siri as an Android App on phone I had at that time). Cortana was no doubt made more powerful by Microsoft's purchase of TellMe, which pre-dates Siri.
            benched42
  • another stupid apple patente

    How is it possible that Apple can get away with this? We have to put this in perspective. Is live patenting flappy bird, just because the uniqueness of the game. It is so frustrating not being able to stop apple for patenting the square, and the circle, AHHHHHH
    ilovepie
  • how is this different

    To the voice activation and feedback interface that was available on Windows 7?

    I guess the difference is somewhere in the 70+ pages.
    aesonaus
  • Article: "The exhaustive 92-page patent ..."

    Ugh!!!!!!!!!!

    Just imagine the amount of caffeine that must be required by USPTO patent examiners to get through each day! Every one of the USPTO offices must have its own private Starbucks.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Bags Of Prior Art

    Are patent office employees

    1) Incompetent

    2) Corrupt

    3) Stupid

    4 ) Blind

    5) On minimum wage

    6 ) Or all of the above
    Alan Smithie
    • The patent office...

      ... apparently doesn't understand the concept of prior art. Companies like Apple are quick to take advantage of this. Why do companies get so many ludicrous patents? Because they can.
      BillDem
    • None of the above

      The USPTO is self-funded and the U.S. Congress repeatedly raids the USPTO cookie jar to fund its various rat holes. Early versions of the America Invents Act (gotta love the irony of this name) included language that prohibited Congress from raiding the USPTO cookie jar, but that language was removed prior to the Act being passed by Congress and signed by President Obama.

      The impacts on the USPTO:

      o there aren't enough patent examiners to properly handle the workload
      o many experienced patent examiners end up leaving (and these are the ones that should be training newly hired patent examiners)

      P.S. If I had to read something like Apple's "exhaustive 92-page patent" discussed in the article, I'd be banging my forehead on my desk at the end of the day.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Apparently...

      ...the problem is with management, not the examiners themselves. And since the Director of the USPTO is a political appointee, it's even possible that the permissiveness reflects administration policy (why would be anyone's guess).
      John L. Ries