A patent that Apple just now made public sees a version of Siri that can detect when its user is whispering and whisper back in response.
The Cupertino, California, tech firm originally filed the patent back in 2016, covering how Apple's digital voice assistant can tone down its replies when, say, the user is at a convention, at a movie theater, or any situation where talking with a normal volume is not possible.
Apple Has A Patent For 'Whispering' To Siri
Gizmodo first reported the existence of the patent. In it, Apple writes that the patent governs "a digital assistant that is capable of detecting a whispered speech input and providing a whispered speech response." It's quite a clever feature, begging the question why companies didn't add that kind of functionality from the beginning — and not just Apple, but others with widely used voice assistants as well, namely Google and Amazon.
Apple goes on to explain certain uses of a whisper feature for Siri. Say, for example, that the user is inside a library where "speaking loudly may be prohibited." They can whisper to Siri and still access her core functions. It would help users respect and not disturb their coworkers while working inside a cubicle.
The patent additionally describes how a device, such as an Apple Watch or iPhone, might detect the difference between a regular speaking voice and a whisper through techniques such as measuring the input's amplitude and frequency patterns. In a sense, it makes Siri act more human-like, because in real-life situations, when someone whispers to another person, the recipient will most certainly whisper back in response because they know that the other party is whispering for a reason.
It's Probably Not Going To Be A Real Thing, Though
Then again, just because there's a patent doesn't mean it'll be turned into a real feature anytime soon. Patents are notorious for staying as patents forever. Only a few ever get developed into a working feature or product, so don't expect a whisper feature for Siri probably ever.
Why? Well, the first thing to keep in mind is that patents are sometimes created as a preemptive strike. A company forms an idea, and they patent it, thus preventing other companies from using the same idea without permission or rights. The second thing is that Siri isn't exactly smart enough as it stands — it already struggles with trickier commands, as 9to5Mac points out. Adding a whisper dynamic would probably confuse it even further.
Still, whispering to your smartphone would probably feel pretty awesome.
Check out the full patent filing below: