Prior to Microsoft's Surface Event, a new Smart Speaker Patent Surfaces describing a built-in Display & Multiple Cameras
In May Pocket-lint reported that Microsoft was working on its own smart speaker device to rival Amazon, Google and Apple. The report claimed that Microsoft and Taiwanese manufacturer Quanta Computer have partnered to build the new speaker.
Today, Patently Apple discovered a new patent application from Microsoft published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this past Thursday that describes their work on a smart speaker. Our cover graphic is Microsoft's patent FIG. 1 which describes the figure as showing "an example environment with an intelligent assistant system in the form of an all-in-one computing device."
Microsoft is holding a Surface oriented event in New York on October 02, 2018 at 4PM ET. Tech sites covering Microsoft are hesitant in taking a guess at what new Surface branded device(s) Microsoft could be introducing at the event, though as Pocket-lint reported, it could very well be a smart speaker.
Microsoft's Smart Speaker Invention
Microsoft states in their patent filing that the proliferation of intelligent assistant devices reflects their increasing popularity as people seek greater convenience in their daily lives. Such devices can perform tasks and services for users via voice interactions. As described in more detail below, typically one or more functions of an intelligent assistant device are activated upon detection of one or more keywords spoken by a user. After the keyword is detected, verbal queries or commands following the keyword are captured and sent to a remote service for interpretation. To ensure that a user's requests and intentions are fully captured, the device typically waits for a period of time after the keyword is received and recognized to receive additional user input. Using the results received from the remote service, the device then responds to the user input.
However and as noted, when operating in this passive manner a device waits to receive verbal queries and commands from users. Additionally, the time occupied by waiting for additional user input following the keyword and the roundtrip communications with the remote service(s) can introduce delays and create barriers to easily conversing with the device.
Accordingly, the present invention provides intelligent assistant devices and corresponding methods for interacting with a user in proactive, unobtrusive, prompt, and pleasant manners. In some examples one or more suggested actions for the user may be displayed via a display of the intelligent assistance device. While the suggested action(s) are displayed, audio input comprising a command followed by a keyword is received from the user. Based at least on receiving the command followed by the keyword, the audio input is processed locally on the device to establish a user selection of the suggested action(s). The device then executes the suggested action(s).
The user may ask the system for information about a wide range of topics, such as the weather, personal calendar events, movie show times, etc. In some examples, the intelligent assistant system also may be configured to control elements in the living room, such as a television, speakers of a music system, a gas fireplace, or motorized curtains.
The output devices may comprise one or more of speaker(s), video display(s), indicator light(s), haptic device(s), and/or other suitable output devices. In other examples, output devices may comprise one or more other devices or systems, such as home lighting, thermostats, media programs, door locks, etc., that may be controlled via actions executed by the commitment engine.
The intelligent assistant system also may be utilized to receive and store messages and/or reminders to be delivered at an appropriate future time. Using data received from sensors, the intelligent assistant system may track and/or communicate with one or more users or other entities.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 32 schematically shows an example of the intelligent assistant device of FIG. 1; FIG. 34 schematically shows a user at a first distances from an intelligent assistant device; FIG. 35 schematically shows the user at a second greater distance from the intelligent assistant device; and FIG. 36 schematically shows enlarging a displayed depiction of suggested actions.
Microsoft filed their patent application with USPTO in Q2 2018 which was made public this past Thursday.
Microsoft's first smart speaker patent was covered by our other IP blog, Patently Mobile, back in January 2017.
One More Thing: Oddly back in May 2017 it was Apple's SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller who said that Amazon-like smart speakers should come with a display. The HomePod came out later that year without a display and at the iPhone event last week they updated their HomePod without adding a new version with a display. What happened to Phil's idea? I guess with the HomePod costing multiple times more than other smart speakers, adding a display would have likely doubled the price.
Currently both the Amazon Spot and Echo Show sell for $129 with a display. Should Microsoft actually launch a smart speaker with a display next month, it's likely to far more expensive. The Surface line of products are designed to compete in in the premium market and against Apple products.
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