Apple’s speech request patent filing involves efforts to enhance Siri

Apple has filed for a patent (number 20180108346) for a “method and apparatus for discovering trending terms in speech requests,” part of an effort to improve Siri, its personal digital assistant.

The patent filing involves systems and processes for discovering trending terms in automatic speech recognition. Candidate terms (e.g., words, phrases, etc.) not yet found in Siri’s speech recognizer vocabulary or having low language model probability can be identified based on trending usage in a variety of electronic data sources (e.g., social network feeds, news sources, search queries, etc.). 

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When candidate terms are identified, archives of live or recent speech traffic can be searched to determine whether users are uttering the candidate terms in dictation or speech requests. Such searching can be done using open vocabulary spoken term detection to find phonetic matches in the audio archives. As the candidate terms are found in the speech traffic, notifications can be generated that identify the candidate terms, provide relevant usage statistics, identify the context in which the terms are used, and the like.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that virtual assistant and speech transcription services such as Siri can become outdated as relevant language and knowledge changes. Such systems can be ill-equipped to handle new names, words, phrases, requests, and the like as they are encountered or to handle fluctuations in popular terms, and updating the systems to accommodate changing language can be tedious and slow. 

Without identifying and accommodating changes in relevant names, words, phrases, requests, and the like, speech recognizers can suffer poor recognition accuracy, which can limit speech recognition utility and negatively impact the user experience. Apple wants Siri to be able to overcome such limitations.

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.