Voice-controlled e-commerce with Apple's new, intelligent voice agent, Siri. That mode of shopping is one of many possible future uses for the hit new feature on the iPhone 4S, according to a patent application filed by the company.
The application, filed in January of last year and published Thursday, describes an intelligent automated assistant that has a wide range of possibilities. For example, the Siri app that comes with the iPhone 4S cannot conduct online purchases, but the patent application describes e-commerce as one of its potential features. Apple bought the Siri company, and obtained the app, about nine months prior to the application's filing.
'Buy It From Amazon'
The e-commerce claim includes "online purchases of items such as books, DVDs, music and the like." It also describes the voice agent being used for travel services, such as "flights, hotels, attractions, and the like."
Siri can currently check inventory at Best Buy through the Wolfram Alpha search engine that it uses, and can suggest items to buy, but attempts at making purchases result in a "sorry, I can't purchase that." In an example given in the patent filing, the voice agent says, "I help you find music, movies, books, electronics, toys, and more -- and buy it from Amazon."
With the success of Microsoft's voice and gestural controller Kinect for the Xbox, which is now being adapted for use by PCs and other devices, hands-free control of smartphones and various electronic devices is proceeding at a rapid pace.
It has been expected that Apple has much bigger plans for Siri than its current usage on the 4S, including possibly for control of an intelligent TV, and the newly released patent application gives a sense of the range of possibilities.
'Participant in Conversations'
The patent application also calls for use of Siri as part of a recommendation engine. The intelligent automated assistant, the application said, may be configured for "personalized recommendations for activities, products, services, source of entertainment, time management" or other kinds of recommendations services that benefit "from an interactive dialog in natural language."
Other intriguing possibilities are mentioned only briefly in the patent application, including the voice agent providing assistance for "automated teller machines." Apple also is thinking beyond the smartphone, as it notes that the system could be used on "any number of different platforms, such as Web, e-mail, smartphone, and the like, or any combination thereof."
Siri already works with the Safari browser and e-mail on the 4S, but the patent application noted that it could be used on "different platforms used by a variety of operating systems."
There's also mention of the ability of Siri to control other devices, including "dialing telephones, controlling light and temperature, and controlling home security devices." It may even "act as a participant in conversations" in e-mail, instant messaging, discussion forums, group chat sessions, live help, or customer support sessions.