Soon we might be able to whisper sweet nothings (or direct somethings) to Siri, and not only will Siri understand, but respond in a whisper as well. Apple applied for a patent which specifies, “a digital assistant that is capable of detecting a whispered speech input and providing a whispered speech response.” Apple filed for the patent in 2016, but was only recently announced at the end of 2017.
For those familiar with Siri, it’s obvious the regular full volume response is not ideal for intimate or quiet public spaces, and the application of a whispering function would skip the step of having to turn the volume down before, say, asking Siri which frozen yogurt places are open past midnight in your area without that information blasted to a bus load of fellow commuters.
Like most tech companies Apple often files patents to protect ideas or concepts they don’t necessarily plan to use in the near future, or necessarily ever.
However, the practical applications of a whispering Siri are conducive to settings where hushed conversation is preferable like offices, waiting rooms, or public transit. The application also cites reasoning for the whispering function as a way to protect the user’s privacy in public spaces. I suppose one wouldn’t want to ask discreetly where the nearest walk-in clinic is, and have one’s entire office overhear, I FOUND THESE RESULTS FOR WALK-IN CLINICS NEAR YOU, at full volume.
The whispering function is positioned in a larger trend of machines being programmed to react to or respond in kind to volume, tone, or even facial expressions of human users. If such an algorithm is created for Voice Assistants to clock a specific kind of speech and respond with the same, there’s a possible future where Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant may one day be capable of recognizing a wide range of emotion, even asking, “You seem sad there is no frozen yogurt store open in your area.”