Shh! Siri May Soon Have a Whisper Mode

Siri, can you please stop being so loud all the time? Well, if an Apple patent comes to fruition, the digital personal assistant just might know when to lower its voice.

In a patent application entitled Digital Assistant Providing Whispered Speech published yesterday (Dec. 14), Apple revealed its interest in creating "a digital assistant that is capable of detecting a whispered speech input and providing a whispered speech response." Yes, that's right, you could speak quietly to Siri — such as when you're going to bed, or not trying to attract so much attention — and Apple's assistant could reply in a similar tone.

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The patent, which Apple filed on Sept. 15, 2016, includes other examples of when softened tones might be best, such as "while studying in a library where speaking loudly may be prohibited" and "while working at a cubicle with other co-workers surrounding the user." 

It also states that a quieter Siri could help with "protecting the user’s privacy," which makes sense. Siri tends to repeat questions back to the user, and you don't always want those around you to know what you're Googling.

How would this work? The patent describes how a device — an iPhone or Apple Watch, for example — would analyze the amplitude and frequency patterns of the speech input, and compare it against other tones of voice, using something the document describes as a "whisper score."

Just don't think that this definitely means a Siri whisper mode is coming to iPhones. Some patents are registered by major tech companies on a whim, or to block competitors from doing the same. Still, though, this patent does show that Apple understands why a tone-aware Siri would be important. I most certainly agree, as it's something I wish my Google Home Mini had.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.