An Apple patent published today describes how Siri could interject in iMessage chats to do things like help schedule meetings based on the location and availability of chat participants.

In one illustration, when one chat participant asks ‘How long ’til you guys get here?’ Siri interjects by checking everyone’s location and then answering the question. In another, a chat participant asks Siri when the group could get together for lunch, and it checks each of their diaries to offer slots when all are free …

In short, it seems to offer exactly the sort of proactive intelligence I called for in a Feature Request last year.

In time, I’d like Siri to be able to handle tasks like ‘Arrange lunch with Sam next week.’ Siri knows who Sam is, so that bit’s fine. It has access to my calendar, so knows when I have free lunch slots. Next, it needs to know when Sam has free lunch slots.

This shouldn’t be complicated. Microsoft Outlook may be one of my least-favorite apps in the world, but it has for years offered delegated access to calendars, where work colleagues are allowed to check each other’s diaries for free slots, and authorized people are allowed to add appointments. So what we need here is the iCloud equivalent.

The patent says that this is exactly the kind of manual task that could be automated by Siri.

While current systems enable users to communicate and perform tasks, users are required to manually perform the tasks. For example, a group of users attempting to schedule lunch needs to determine an available day and time that works for each member of the group. This can require each user to check their calendar and share available times with other users. Likewise, a group of users attempting to perform a financial transaction needs to determine a payment method for performing the transaction. This can require each user to determine the payment methods available to the individual user and then share this data amongst the other members of the group. Accordingly, improvements are needed.

The patent spends considerable time discussing the obvious privacy concerns raised. Each participant in the chat would have the ability to approve or decline a request for access to data such as calendar and location. This is particularly important given that one of the features described in the patent is facilitating peer-to-peer payments – though here Apple suggests a less scary alternative to allowing Siri to actually complete the transaction.

A task can include scheduling a meeting, performing a financial transaction, determining an estimated time of arrival, providing directions, providing weather information, alerting a user of relevant information, etc […]

Alternatively, to assist with performing a financial transaction amongst multiple participant users of a communication session, a virtual assistant can determine the financial applications available and/or utilized by each of the participant users and recommend a financial application to perform the financial transaction.

Either way, Touch ID would be used to authorize the transaction.

As ever with Apple patents, there’s no telling whether the company will ever implement the ideas described, but with Siri competitors like Viv and Google Assistant continually pushing the boundaries of what they can do, I’d say it’s more likely than not that at least some of this will make it into iPhones at some stage.

Via Apple Insider

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About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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