Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,711,160) for a “smart dock for activating a voice recognition mode of a portable electronic device.” If such a device ever comes to fruition, it would result in a dock that could be activated by Siri. Some of the features mentioned in the patent could appear in the upcoming HomePod.
The patent involves a dock for a portable electronic device including a housing, a connector extending from the housing to connect the device to the dock, a microphone integrated within the housing, and a processor. The processor is operatively coupled to receive audio input from the microphone, and in response to the audio input, transmit a message to the portable electronic device via the connector to activate a voice recognition mode of the portable electronic device.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that, in order to utilize the various functionalities provided by portable electronic devices such as iPhones and iPads, a user typically has to interact with their device using finger controls and/or a graphical user interface (GUI) included on their device.
Apple says that some existing portable electronic devices include voice recognition capabilities that allow a user to access the various functionalities on their device using audible voice commands (of course, most recent iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS gadgets can do this via Siri). However, the company says that “utilization of such voice recognition capabilities in existing devices typically involves an initial activation step requiring the user to interact with the finger controls and/or GUI of their device before voice commands can be processed.”
Apple has already overcome this limitation with the “Hey, Siri” feature on some devices. It seems the company wants to extend it to all devices, perhaps including a “smart dock.”
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.