Among the many features that users have been hoping for in iOS 5, one of the few that has not yet showed up in the developer betas is an updated version of Voice Control. A new report, however, suggests that iOS 5 will indeed have a new and impressive voice recognition service called “Assistant.”
Although previous reports from March and even earlier this month have suggested that iOS 5 would feature a new and significantly enhanced voice control platform (likely powered by Siri technology, which was recently acquired by Apple), some new details have finally come to light.
The new feature, which will reportedly be called “Assistant”, will take voice input, as well as information such as location and contacts, to provide a powerful new service that will go above and beyond the current capabilities of Voice Control.
The new service could, for instance, allow you to set up a movie with your friend, including looking up the movie time, offering tickets, and sending the information along to your movie companion.
The report also notes that this new feature is still being actively developed, and may not be finished in time to be released in iOS 5, which may explain why it has so far been missing from any of the betas. 9to5Mac, however, has found references to “Assistant” buried within the current iOS SDK:
This feature sounds suspiciously similar to the sorts of things Siri was working on before being acquired by Apple. Siri’s work focused on a concept called “Virtual Personal Assistants” or VPAs which would process information and accomplish tasks for users.
Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs) represent the next generation interaction paradigm for the Internet. In today’s paradigm, we follow links on search results. With a VPA, we interact by having a conversation. We tell the assistant what we want to do, and it applies multiple services and information sources to help accomplish our task. Like a real assistant, a VPA is personal; it uses information about an individual’s preferences and interaction history to help solve specific tasks, and it gets better with experience.
It’s likely that Apple will be working closely with Nuance and their voice recognition technology to accurately translate spoken requests into text, which could then be processed and assessed for commands, which could then be executed.
The report has suggested that Apple may be planning to fully integrating this powerful new “assistant” feature into iOS 5 as an exclusive feature of the iPhone 5, which may explain why it hasn’t yet surfaced in any iOS 5 betas.
What kind of magic will we really see when iOS 5 and the iPhone 5 hit our pockets this fall? Nobody can know for sure, but if this evidence is any indication, it seems like it will be something pretty cool and immensely powerful that may forever change the way we use our iPhones.