New Patent Suggests Siri Will Soon be Able to Search Photos

Apple's overhauled Photos application that debuted with iOS 7 earlier this year introduced automatic photo sorting by date and location. A new patent application that surfaced at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday suggests that Apple wants to improve upon this idea by allowing users to tag photos and search for them using Siri.

Siri photo search

The patent, entitled "Voice-Based Image Tagging and Searching," describes how the idea works in its abstract: "The electronic device provides a natural language text string corresponding to a speech input associated with the digital photograph. The electronic device performs natural language processing on the text string to identify one or more terms associated with an entity, an activity, or a location. The electronic device tags the digital photograph with the one or more terms and their associated entity, activity, or location." That is basically a long-winded way of saying that you will be able to add tags to your photos with your voice and then ask Siri to search for photos based on their tags. For example, as described in the summary, someone who has a photo of him/her self at the beach may tag the photo with the phrase "this is me at the beach." The photo will be tagged appropriately and the natural language processing will intelligently cull additional information that was not explicitly said in the tagging (such as the person's proper name from "me" or location data) and add more tags. Another example describes the digital assistant referencing other applications such as the calendar or social networks: "if a user says "this is us at the beach" with reference to a photograph, the digital assistant may consult a calendar to determine if there is an entry that provides additional information, such as 'Hawaii vacation with family.' In this case, the digital assistant can tag the photograph with the names of the user's family (and also the word "family"). In another example, the digital assistant may consult a social network to identify any postings that are proximate in time to the photograph and that contain potentially relevant information about the contents of the photograph (e.g., 'On my way to Hawaii with the fam!')." Similar photographs will also be tagged appropriately so the user does not have to tag photos individually.

Considering the ever growing volume of photos that people keep on their devices, this system should provide an intelligent and quick solution for users to navigate their albums. The patent was originally filed back in March but only became public this past week. The inventors are Jan Erik Solem and Thijs Willem Stalenhoef.