Siri crowdsourcing patent could harness human brainpower for iOS devices

Apple crowd-sourcing patent
Siri could outsource questions back to humans

Siri could one day be more useful than just setting timers and answering basic questions, as Apple has filed a patent that envisions an expanded database with answers from human sources.

The "Crowd Sourcing Information to Fulfill User Requests" filing with the US Patent and Trademark Office suggests the Cupertino-based company will tap into the knowledge of real-life experts.

Apple's 2,000-word document indicates that crowd-sourcing for an answer is initiated if Siri fails to retrieve a good enough solution from its current database.

"In response to detection of the failure, information relevant to the user request is crowd-sourced by querying one or more crowd sourcing information sources."

ChaCha real smooth

Right now, Apple's voice-guided personal assistant relies on sources such as Bing, Yahoo and Wolfram Alpha.

But additional results from "self-identified experts" could give Siri the power of human-based search engines and Q&A sites like ChaCha and Quora.

"In some embodiments, queries and answers in a particular field may be posted in a public area for all self-identified experts of the field to see," explained the patent's text.

"The answers provided for the queries can be peer reviewed and rated by other self-identified experts in the field."

Siri's theorized crowdsource module would then make use of ratings to select the best answer for a user's question, exactly like ChCha and Quora.

Playing the long game

While peer-reviewed results from humans would be a boon to what Siri offers right now, the answers wouldn't always be as instantaneous as machine-based solutions from Bing, for example.

The patent talks about a "delayed response" that happens outside of the time frame of the current user session.

"The time frame in which a delayed response to a user request is provided ranges from several minutes to several hours, days, or weeks," noted the patent.

"[This depends] on the nature of the user request and the typical time frame that useful information may be crowdsourced from external CS information sources."

Siri is staying tightlipped on iOS 8

Siri is staying tightlipped on iOS 8

Of course, this patent doesn't necessarily mean we'll see a crowd-sourcing Siri in tow with iOS 8 or any future update to Apple's mobile operating system.

Siri doesn't seem to want to tell us either way.

Matt Swider