Siri, Apple’s personal digital assistant, may either yell for whisper at you in the future depending on the noise level of the environment you’re in. The tech giant has applied for a patent (number 2021009780) for “environment aware voice-assistant devices, and related systems and methods.”
Digital assistants such as Siri provide synthesized speech to respond to your commands/requests. However, various conditions associated with the user’s listening environment and aspects of the synthesized speech may negatively affect a user-perceived quality, or intelligibility, of the synthesized speech.
Apple says this may affect ”intelligibility,” a measure of what extent the speech is audible to and understandable by a listener. Intelligibility of a given sound output may vary across different listening environments. Apple wants its Siri compatible devices (Macs, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, HomePods, and HomePod minis) to be able to detect the noise environment around them and have Siri adjust its “voice” accordingly.
Here’s a summary of the patent filing: “An appliance can include a microphone transducer, a processor, and a memory storing instructions. The appliance is configured to receive an audio signal at the microphone transducer and to detect an utterance in the audio signal. The appliance is further configured to classify a speech mode based on the utterance. The appliance is further configured to determine conditions of an environment of the appliance.
“The appliance is further configured to select at least one of a playback volume or a speech output mode from a plurality of speech output modes based on the classification, and the conditions of the environment of the appliance. The appliance is further configured to adapt the playback volume and/or mode of played-back speech according to the speech output mode. The appliance may be configured to synthesize speech according to the speech output mode, or to modify synthesized speech according to the speech output mode.”