It looks like Apple may be exploring the possibilities of voice recognition in its new mobile operating system. Beta testers of iOS 9.1 have discovered a feature that lets users set up a voice-based phone unlocking system called “Hey Siri”.
Siri is, of course, the AI assistant built into every mobile Apple device. What this new feature allows is for the user to unlock her device simply by saying “Hey Siri”; as MacRumors points out, iOS 9.1 enables always-on functionality for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, so the user is essentially turning on the device by speaking to it. But the fact the setup process for the new Hey Siri feature suggests that it “helps Siri recognize your voice” could be an indication that Apple is aiming at something bigger with this: voice-based user recognition.
That would open up a wealth of potential applications for the feature. For example, voice recognition could theoretically become another biometric modality enabling payment authentication through Apple Pay. Or, if Apple does indeed intend for the iPhone to become the central hub of the smart home as some predict, Hey Siri voice authentication could be used to control a range of connected devices in the Internet of Things.
For now, we can only speculate as beta testers explore the new iOS; but the possibilities of Hey Siri are intriguing.