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.

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.

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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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