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Apple has filed for a patent for an "Intelligent Automated Assistant" (patent WO 2011/088053 A2) with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It involves its Siri technology.
Per the patent, an intelligent automated assistant system engages with the user in an integrated, conversational manner using natural language dialog, and invokes external services when appropriate to obtain information or perform various actions. The system can be implemented using any of a number of different platforms, such as the web, email, smartphone, and the like, or any combination thereof. In one embodiment, the system is based on sets of interrelated domains and tasks, and employs additional functionally powered by external services with which the system can interact.
Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Today's electronic devices are able to access a large, growing, and diverse quantity of functions, services, and information, both via the Internet and from other sources. Functionality for such devices is increasing rapidly, as many consumer devices, smartphones, tablet computers, and the like, are able to run software applications to perform various tasks and provide different types of information.
"Often, each application, function, website, or feature has its own user interface and its own operational paradigms, many of which can be burdensome to learn or overwhelming for users. In addition, many users may have difficulty even discovering what functionality and/ or information is available on their electronic devices or on various websites; thus, such users may become frustrated or overwhelmed, or may simply be unable to use the resources available to them in an effective manner.
"In particular, novice users, or individuals who are impaired or disabled in some manner, and/ or are elderly, busy, distracted, and/ or operating a vehicle may have difficulty interfacing with their electronic devices effectively, and/ or engaging online services effectively. Such users are particularly likely to have difficulty with the large number of diverse and inconsistent functions, applications, and websites that may be available for their use.
"Accordingly, existing systems are often difficult to use and to navigate, and often present users with inconsistent and overwhelming interfaces that often prevent the users from making effective use of the technology."
The inventors are Thomas Robert Gruber, Adam John Cheyer, Dag Kittlaus, Didier Renee Guzzoni, Christopher Dean Brigham, Richard Donald Giuli Marcello Bastea-Forte and Harry Joseph Saddler.