You’ve been able to ask Siri to send messages on your behalf for a few years now and with iOS 10, Apple’s expanded Siri capabilities to third-party apps like mobile payments. But if a new patent for a “Virtual assistant in a communication session” that the company filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is anything to go by, the virtual assistant could soon be integrated deep into Messages, assisting users with peer-to-peer payments, scheduling dinner and providing other chat bot-style interactions within message threads.
The patent discloses using the virtual assistant to assist the chat participants with tasks during the Messages session, including entering bot-like commands to Siri. Apple says Messages would analyze the entered message and determine that it was directed to Siri rather than to the other chat participants.
“As a result, the message will not be transmitted to the other participants of the communication session and the virtual assistant will assist the user with the identified task,” reads the patent abstract.
Siri would assist a user with a variety of different tasks including making peer-to-peer payments, scheduling appointments, providing navigation directions, retrieving movie times, finding a place to eat nearby and telling the user how long it will take for their friends to arrive, among other functions.
Messages would distinguish whether a message like ”Siri, help us schedule a meeting” typed into the app was intended for an actual recipient or Siri with a little help of semantic analysis and artificial intelligence. Commands chat participants direct at Siri would not be displayed in the public chat feed for everyone to see.
The virtual assistant would be able to use data including calendars and locations from chat participants to accomplish tasks such as scheduling dinner for participants in an iMessage conversation. In the dinner scheduling example, Siri would even bring up an in-chat poll asking chat participants to vote for a preferred time and place, allowing her to schedule the reservation and add the appointment to everyone’s calendars.
In some embodiments, members of a chat will be notified that a user is utilizing a virtual assistant. Those who are not also using Siri can choose whether they, too, would like to activate AI functionality. Additionally, Messages participants are able to approve or deny AI accesses to personal data during the communications session.
Apple’s proposed solution that would integrate Siri deeper into iMessage sounds a lot like Facebook’s AI-driven bot in Messenger or Google’s conversational assistant built into its Allo messaging app.
The solution, first filed for in May 2015, credits Apple engineers Mehul K. Sanghavi and Jeffrey P. Schwerdtfeger as its inventors.