Apple has made considerable strides with Siri since launching the virtual assistant in 2011. We have seen all sorts of new features and use cases for the software over the last decade, but there is still plenty Siri can’t do. For example, if you want to hear Siri’s responses in a loud office or airport or stadium, your best bet is to turn the volume up and hold your phone really close to your ear. According to a recent patent application spotted by AppleInsider, the company is looking into giving Siri environmental awareness that will affect the way it speaks.
As AppleInsider notes, Alexa and other virtual assistants are capable of responding in a “whisper” in situations when a loud response might not be appropriate. Siri currently lacks this functionality, but the patent application makes it clear that Apple is at least researching technology that would allow Siri to alter its response based on a number of factors, from the background noise level to the layout of a room to the volume of the user’s command.
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Here’s one interesting passage from the patent application describing how the process would work:
The decision component may select one or more speech synthesis parameters corresponding to the speech output mode. The decision component may also, or alternatively, select a playback volume. The one or more speech-synthesis parameters, when incorporated in a speech-synthesis model, can cause a speech mode of the synthesized speech to match the speech mode of the utterance.
In other cases, the one or more speech-synthesis parameters, when incorporated in a speech-synthesis model, can cause a speech mode of the synthesized speech to differ from the speech mode of the utterance. In some cases, the decision component may select a speech synthesis model from a plurality of speech synthesis models corresponding to the speech output mode.
In related news, Siri will no longer default to the female voice in iOS 14.5, which is currently in beta testing. Instead, anyone setting up their iPhone for the first time will be able to choose which voice they want Siri to use. This should help eliminate any perceived bias on Apple’s part when it comes to how a voice assistant should sound. Plus, Apple has added two new American voices that sound far more organic than the old two.
“We’re excited to introduce two new Siri voices for English speakers and the option for Siri users to select the voice they want when they set up their device,” Apple said in a statement to TechCrunch on Wednesday after the beta was pushed out. “This is a continuation of Apple’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and products and services that are designed to better reflect the diversity of the world we live in.”
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