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Apple imagines future Siri enhancements to find, control live television content

If Apple ever gets its long-rumored web television service for Apple TV off the ground, a newly-issued patent shows that users may depend on voice navigation to find, watch, and record shows and events.

Titled "intelligent automated assistant for TV user interactions," the patent details a number of ways in which a virtual assistant — such as Siri — might help consumers interact with an over-the-top television service. Examples include searching program listings, recording live content for later viewing, and calling up previously-saved videos.

Importantly, Apple contemplates not just normal natural language processing, but also the concept of intent. Apple sees a Siri-like assistant understanding the questions asked or commands issued and responding appropriately.

Some of this is already on display in tvOS, the operating system that runs atop the fourth-generation Apple TV. Siri recognizes when users ask for details on a particular movie or show, and differentiates those requests from more mundane real-world queries.

For instance, asking Siri on tvOS for information on Gosford Park will return results related to the 2001 film, rather than the rural park found in Northern Ireland.

The new patent shows some more grand ambitions, as well. In one particularly interesting example, Apple imagines a series of networked devices connected to disparate displays — multiple Apple TV units in different rooms, each with their own television monitor — interacting with each other.

In this case, a user might tell their living room Apple TV to "play Silicon Valley in the bedroom," and the HBO series would begin playing on the specified television, rather than the one which heard the command.

Apple credits Marcel Van Os, Harry J. Saddler, Lia T. Napolitano, Jonathan H. Russell, Patrick M. Lister, and Rohit Dasari with the invention of U.S. Patent No. 9,338,493.