If you were hoping that Apple’s personal assistant Siri would be making an appearance in the next version of OS X, Yosemite, it looks like you will be satisfied with the forthcoming release. A patent application that Apple filed for Siri on the Mac back in 2013 has just come to light.
For more on Siri, take a look at our Complete guide to Siri: 'Hey Siri!' and all the other Siri features
The patent hints that Apple's personal assistant Siri may arrive on our Macs later this year with Yosemite.
The US patent, titled "Intelligent Digital Assistant in a Desktop Environment" suggests that Siri is making the move from Apple’s mobile platform, iOS to OS X Yosemite.
Apple suggests that: "The integration of an at least partially voice-controlled intelligent digital assistant into a desktop, laptop, and/or tablet computer environment provides additional capabilities to the digital assistant, and enhances the usability and capabilities of the desktop, laptop, and/or tablet computer."
Find out how Yosemite compares to Windows in our comparison review.
What will Siri on the Mac be able to do?
The patent application explains that most desktop, laptop, and tablet computer operating systems “support more complex and sophisticated interactions and functionalities than many small mobile devices”.
Apple highlights some of the difficulties with multitasking and suggests that Siri could become a “third hand”. The patent application notes that a user is limited to interacting only with the foremost window, as a solution it suggests using the digital assistant to perform the secondary task, perhaps a web search, while the user continues to focus on the task at hand.
How will Siri on the Mac work?
According to the patent, Siri could be activated via a trackpad gesture and once activated it will listen out for your commands.
The patent application also suggests that Siri on the Mac won’t only be reliant on speech commands, but the commands will be taken contextually. For example, a “focus selector” (mouse curser) would help to apply context to the command (for example, if you want to paste text into a document you would place the mouse pointer where you wanted the text to appear).
In an example illustrated in the patent application is a selection of files and the command: “Sort these by date and merge into a new document.”
Will Siri on the Mac be any good?
However, that was two years ago and Siri has improved since then. Siri launched on iOS in October 2011, with iOS 5. However, Siri was in ‘beta’ for about two years following launch, finally being promoted in iOS 7 last September.
Unfortunately, Siri for iOS has disappointed many including Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak who described Siri as “Poo-Poo” back in 2012. At the time he blamed Apple for Siri’s inadequacies, suggesting that before the company bought it Siri was pretty decent, but since acquiring the service Apple had let it go down hill.
Woz's comments were two years ago though, and Siri has improved somewhat since then, but at the same time other virtual assistants have come on to the market ramping up the competition.
Joining the competition is the team that created Siri before it was bought by Apple who left the company and are now working at a new start up called Viv Labs on the “next generation virtual assistant”. This VA is said to be able to understand complex sentences that would have Siri stumped.
This is the crux of it though. Does it matter whether Siri is any good if people aren’t actually inclined to use voice commands to activate their phones.
And if people aren’t using Siri on their phones then why would they use Siri on their Macs in a busy office. Who wants to be the mad person in the corner talking to their Mac?
Do you use Siri? Would you use it on a Mac? Tell us in the comments below.
Siri and the connected home
Another area where Siri may be more successful is as the control centre of your home. It is thought that Siri will take a place at the centre of Apple’s connected home.
Another example illustrated by Apple’s patent filing shows a user asking to view a movie on a different screen, which could be a second screen or a TV that is plugged into an Apple TV. This hints to Apple’s plans for the connected home using it’s new HomeKit framework.
Siri on the Mac, working with iOS
Siri on the Mac may also act in conjunction with iOS 8, as part of Apple’s aim for better Continuity between the two platforms. The patent states that the Mac version of the digital assistant could be: “Invoked to cooperate with the user to complete a task that the user has already started on a user device.” This sounds a bit like Handoff, a new feature coming in iOS 8 and Yosemite that will allow you to start an email on your iPhone and then finish it on your Mac, for example.
AppleInsider notes that Siri for Mac will have an identical backend off-site server to Siri for iOS.
What other evidence is there that Siri for Mac will launch soon?
So far Siri is nowhere to be seen in the Yosemite beta and Apple made no hint to its presence when it previewed Yosemite at WWDC in June. This time last year there were rumours that Apple was set to add Siri to Mavericks, and that never materialised.
There is already a Dictation feature available in Mavericks, which like Dictation in iOS 7, uses Nuance’s algorithms to convert your speech to text.