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Apple is researching how to detect environmental noise levels and user voice patterns so Siri can respond with a yell or a whisper as needed.
Siri has been widely criticized for its lack of feature parity with rivals. The discontinuation of HomePod has again placed Siri in the spotlight as the smart assistant approaches its tenth birthday.
A patent application published on Thursday shows one area Apple seeks to improve with its assistant — environmental awareness. Currently, Siri will respond with the same voice, volume, and inflection regardless of how noisy a room is or how the command is given.
Other voice assistants like Alexa can respond in a lower volume and a "whisper" voice when a command is given quietly. Siri lacks this feature and can respond to commands at sometimes jarring volumes.
Siri could one day consider effects like room noise, device location, and distance from the user when considering response volume. Apple proposes that on-device processors can listen to the user's tone, inflection, and volume of the command. Other data points would be used, too, like time of day or previously set volumes.
With these considerations in mind, a user could whisper a command to Siri late at night and get a quiet response in turn. Loud environments would produce a slower but louder response from Siri to ensure it was heard and understood.
This patent is credited to Narimene Lezzoum, Sylvain J. Choisel, Richard Powell, Ashrith Deshpande, and Ameya Joshi. Richard Powell was previously credited with audio-based research applications.
Siri produces its voice using synthesized audio obtained from voice actors. A Neural Text To Speech engine converts a processor's command into audible speech. As of iOS 14.5, Siri will have two additional English voices with more humanlike speech patterns.
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