A new patent registered by Apple appears to pave the way for Siri to react intelligently to noise levels in the immediate environment and adjust its speech patterns and volume accordingly. Whispering or shouting when it feels necessary.
According to AppleInsider, “Apple is researching how to detect environmental noise levels and user voice patterns so Siri can respond with a yell or a whisper as needed.”
Right now, Siri will always respond at the volume set by the user, unconcerned by how loudly the request was given or noise levels nearby.
Amazon Alexa has been able to adapt to ambient noise in the environment for some time, so Apple’s move could bring much-requested feature parity.
The patent says, “…an audio appliance can detect an utterance, classify a speech mode based on characteristics of the utterance, and identify conditions present in and associated with a listening environment. Based on the observed characteristics, the audio appliance can adapt the synthesis of speech, modify synthesized speech, and/or change a playback volume. Such modifications can make the output of synthesized speech intelligible in challenging environments, comfortable to listen to in other environments, or generate a whispered speech in quiet and specific environments, each of which can improve a user’s experience across different listening environments.”
That’s a pretty wordy way of saying; when you whisper to Siri, Siri will whisper back. If you shout or the ambient noise is deafening, Siri will yell (or at least talk loudly) back.
In practical terms, this means if you want to ask Siri something, and your household is sleeping, you can whisper your request, and Siri will respond in kind, softly confirming your instruction.
The patent also mentions monitoring the inflection in a person’s voice, which could have intriguing implications. Could Siri be able to pick up if a person is in distress and automatically contact emergency services?
Apple has been making a concerted effort to improve Siri. iOS 14.5 brings with it better speech and some new voices, and the tech giant has been opening a lot of money on AI purchases over the last year. The future is looking bright.