Apple patent filing involves context-aware voice guidance in Maps

Apple has filed for a patent (number 20180195872) for “context-aware voice guidance” in its Maps app. In the patent filing, the tech giant notes that many map-based applications available today are designed for a variety of different devices (e.g., desktops, laptops, tablet devices, smartphones, handheld global positioning system (GPS) receivers, etc.) and for various different purposes (e.g., navigation, browsing, sports, etc.). 

Most of these applications generate displays of a map based on map data that describes relative locations of streets, highways, points of interest, etc., in the map. The maps used in such applications are usually two-dimensional (2D) maps or three-dimensional (3D) maps. However, a large number of the applications use 2D maps due in part to the processing-intensive demands of viewing 3D maps. 

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Apple says that, for the same reason, the applications that use 3D maps “are often slow, inefficient, plain, and/or simple, to the point that renders the application useless.” One such solution, the company, says is improved voice guidance that allows users to keep their eyes on the road.

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “A context-aware voice guidance method is provided that interacts with other voice services of a user device. The voice guidance does not provide audible guidance while the user is making a verbal request to any of the voice-activated services. Instead, the voice guidance transcribes its output on the screen while the verbal requests from the user are received. 

“In some embodiments, the voice guidance only provides a short warning sound to get the user's attention while the user is speaking on a phone call or another voice-activated service is providing audible response to the user's inquires. The voice guidance in some embodiments distinguishes between music that can be ducked and spoken words, for example from an audiobook, that the user wants to pause instead of being skipped. The voice guidance ducks music but pauses spoken words of an audio book in order to provide voice guidance to the user.”

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.