Apple patents smart iDevice dock with always-listening Siri capability

By , Dec 5, 2013

Apple patent (smart Siri dock 001)

An interesting Apple patent application has surfaced in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database on Thursday. Titled ‘Smart dock for activating a voice recognition mode of a portable electronic device,’ the filing basically describes a smart dock of sorts for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices with a unique feature giving Apple’s Siri digital personal assistant a permanent place in your home, with a cool always-on functionality.

Unlike Motorola’s Moto X handset with on-device Google Now feature always in the listening mode and responding to the ‘OK Google’ phrase, Apple’s patent relies on a hardware dock providing the listening functionality, with users being able to set a custom audio prompt that will trigger Siri…

The USPTO patent filing outlines a dock for a portable electronic device such as the iPhone which has an integrated microphone within the housing and a processor handling sound pattern recognition.

The processor is operatively coupled to receive audio input from the built-in microphone, and in response to the audio input, “transmit a message to the portable electronic device via the connector to activate a voice recognition mode of the portable electronic device,” writes Apple.

A user would have the ability to assign a specific audio prompt that would trigger Siri, such as a spoken phrase or various other sounds such as a finger snap or hand clap.

The always-listening dock would continuously pick up sounds and listen to the specific keyword or audio prompt before activating the iPhone’s voice recognition feature. The dock could even have a built-in screen, as per Apple’s filing, with other embodiments mentioning a scroll wheel, tactile controls and even a touch panel.

Apple patent (smart Siri dock 002)

So, rather than provide the full voice recognition and Siri functionality, the dock’s embedded processor would only have to handle recognizing a specific sound pattern or keyword that would instruct Siri running on an iOS device to take it from there.

In relaying spoken commands to the docked iPhone, the smart dock itself would not (theoretically) have to include a powerful processor. The accessory would also execute any operations returned by the docked device, meaning it would need to include a wireless communications module for interacting with iCloud.

AppleInsider explains:

By setting listening thresholds, the dock can selectively filter out ambient noise while still allowing a user to operate their device remotely using only audio cues. Since the system relies primarily on audio input, an effective limiter must be implemented to ignore responses by Siri. In these scenarios, the dock would deactivate listening mode during voice recognition operations.

Users could also say a specific command to deactivate Siri or the dock could time out Siri voice recognition and put the iOS device to sleep after a predetermined time period.

The smart dock invention was filed in May 2012 and credits Apple engineers Scott Krueger, Jesse Dorogusker and Erik Wang.

As with any Apple patent, whether or not the company chooses to turn this particular invention into a reality is up for anyone’s guess. It should be noted that Apple files a lot of patents that never see the light of day.

It’s entirely possible that Apple had considered this smart dock as a way of putting Siri in your home. However, as the patent application was filed before Motorola’s always-listening Moto X handset became available, I suspect the iPhone maker abandoned the Siri-enabled dock idea.

Instead, I think Apple would want to enhance the M7 motion coprocessor so that it listens to microphone input for the sound/phrase trigger without burdening the main A7 processor, enabling the kind of always-on Siri functionality found on Motorola’s handset.

What say you?

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  • Ricky

    We could be Tony Stark, without the suit and a less smarter jarvis

  • chumawumba

    Now that would be awesome

    • marcus1324

      Are you kidding me this is really bad

  • RarestName

    Seems like something Activator and a jailbreak tweak can achieve.

    • ✪ aidan harris ✪

      It depends! I’ve seen some wonderful jailbreak tweaks but I’ve also seen tweaks that are nothing but bloatware and not necessarily a bad idea but a bad execution that slows down the device…

  • marcus1324

    Thanks Obama

    • marcus1324

      If you don’t get my reference Obama asked the NSA to talk to companies about things like this. The NSA already talked to Microsoft about it and now Apple…. :’( I hate the government. (Xbox One is always listening to you through Kinect.)

      • CollegiateLad

        Take off your tinfoil hat.

      • Carlos Gomes

        Hey, be nice!
        He needs his hat!

  • Prasoon Singh

    Okay Siri.

  • Vivek Raja

    The NSA comments are coming.

    • Jonathan

      So are the British.

  • Yash Gorana

    They just HAD to do it…. after Nexus 5′s “OK, GOOGLE” thing…this had to happen !

  • Aaron de Silva

    I’m not one who talks about privacy.. But I find this scary. Imagine apple listening to everyone. It’s like yea lets have a spy with us.

    • Yash Gorana

      Yeah ! So you’ll have no problem if Moto X or some other phone (which already) has an always-listening feature. But when Apple will do it… BEHOLD NSApple.

      I like your thinking.

      • Aaron de Silva

        Truth be told, I don’t really know a lot about the other phones. Been using iPhones since it came out and I doubt I’ll make a switch to another device.

        On the other hand I was thinking a feature like this would pose security risks. Be it NSA or general hackers.

  • n0ahcruz3

    Then apple will file a lawsuit to google for infringing on their patents “hands-free siri” and demands a ban on devices such as Nex5, MotoX for using “OK google now” hands free. typical apple smh

  • Micaiah Martin

    For the people who are freaked about the NSA:
    The NSA can already turn your phone on and listen to you whenever they feel like. If you are freaked out about this then mind as well get rid of your phone, computer, tablet or anything else connect to the internet/service. NSA has been dabbling in these things for years! There isn’t anyway to keep them out unless you are completely disconnected. Yes, I hate what they do and I hate how they have been doing it for awhile. Although I have always known that they were doing it thanks to Lewrockwell(dot)com. So here are your choices. Buy items like these and keep your cell phones. And allow the NSA to keep their eye on you. OR don’t and completely disconnect.. Sure disconnect allows you to have your privacy, but honestly you shouldn’t be so worried about the NSA watching over you. Just don’t be stupid :D and be ready to disconnect when shit hits the fan. I highly doubt the NSA really pays any attention to you…unless you are sending red flags too them. If then thats the case. DISCONNECT and hide! hahaha honestly…also if you are planning to like make a bomb. then I would Suggest!!! to…disconnect. Like I said children…DON’T BE STUPID. You can’t stop the NSA and you never will till the revolution starts. So carry on. Living in the light of all things knowing that the NSA is watching you..just be ready…when shit hits the fan.