A future version of Siri could automatically unlock your device while carrying out a request by recognizing your voice. At least, that’s the technology described in a new patent, titled “Device access using voice authentication,” granted to Apple and published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on Tuesday.
What Is Voice ID?
The system would detect a voice command or request from a user.
It would then determine if that voice request has come from the registered user of the device, based on a “voice print” comprised of multiple examples of the user’s speech.
Basically, you could say “Siri, unlock my iPhone” and have your iPhone authenticated remotely.
If that sounds essentially like something Apple would call Voice ID, it’s because it pretty much is.
Similarly, the system could take out a step, and unlock your device while performing a request. That might mean no more “You’ll need to unlock your iPhone first” responses from the digital assistant.
How Voice ID Would Work
Such a system does seem like it could have the potential for false positives. But based on how it works, Apple seems to have already thought of that.
The system would use a “voice print” to identify users, and would rely on statistical models of the characteristics of a specific person’s pronunciation including voicing, silences, stop bursts, nasal or liquid interference, frication, and more.
Similarly, the patent suggests that the system would be text-independent. That means it could identify a user just through normal speech, rather than a specific passphrase or command.
When an iPhone or similar Siri-equipped device receives a voice command, it would compare that command against the voice print. If it determines that it’s met the similarities requirements, it would automatically unlock the device and perform the command.
To add an extra layer of security, the patent also theorizes that a digital assistant could refrain from responding with sensitive information unless a device is unlocked through another authentication medium.
Because of that, a user other than the one with the registered voiceprint could use a device for general inquiries. But Siri could identify that it’s not the primary user and withhold sensitive data or information when responding.
In cases where a voice print fails to authenticate completely, the device might ask for a passcode or another biometric security method — similar to how Touch ID or Face ID responds to authentication failures.
How and When Will We Get Voice ID?
The patent published today also echoes a similar system detailed in a patent application from 2011. So it’s clear that Apple has been thinking about this technology for some time.
This system could, of course, also be incredibly useful for owners of HomePod. Siri on that platform could then respond with private data or personal responses based on the user requesting them.
Previous rumors also indicate that Apple is working on voice profiling so devices could tell multiple users apart from each other.
Of course, not all Apple patents end up being used in a consumer device. Similarly, we have no way to be sure when such a system will actually hit the market.