Patent or trademark applications point the way.

Sometimes, patent and trademark applications can expose what direction a company is heading in. As annoying as it is for some people, news of a patent or trademark request can often spark off some gossip.

Recently, the US Patent and Trademark Office published patent number 8,677,377. More specifically, the patent surrounded the ‘method and apparatus for building an intelligent automated assistant’.

The request was filed by Apple, and many experts have been interpreting what this patent is actually for. Apple already has Siri, a virtual personal assistant, so the logical explanation is that Apple is planning on overhauling Siri. Some have confidently predicted that this improved version of Siri will involve sensors being placed round the home so that automated assistance can be provided to lots of people in a variety of ways. But really, all we know is that Apple’s request revolves around the more general topic of intelligent systems and intelligent automated assistants.

It’s likely that we’re talking about Siri, so is developing the software a good idea?

As Siri stands right now, the jury is out on its usefulness. What’s clear though, is that it’s important to Apple and they are committed to Siri. And, to be fair, the potential for the product is amazing and not all representative to Siri’s current capabilities.

Just imagine how you’d use a personal assistant at home. You could be reminded to take that medication, buy that shopping item or post that birthday card. You could be advised on the weather, the traffic or the time. Need to find the remote control? Car keys? Passport? Fret no more. And, on a more serious note, the possibilities are endless if you’re visually or physically impaired.

But all this is pure conjecture and still a far way off. Clearly Apple is thinking of something along these lines, but it remains to be seen whether anything materialises. Don’t forget that big companies register trademarks or patents all the time – sometimes on nothing more than a whim. Even for something like a development to Siri may require Apple to file for patents related to programming languages and interpretation methods to name but two.

Apple has a track record in making sensible decisions, so any development on Siri (or something similar) will be based on their predictions of how popular and useful it would be.

For that reason alone, we can stop and daydream for a while.

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