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Apple dreams up a better autocorrect

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published two new Apple(s aapl) patent applications (hat tip to AppleInsider), both of which could help improve the sometimes-sorry state of autocorrect. One describes an enhanced method of autocorrection, while the other details a way to automatically determine and change the language for a particular message.

The first application — Transient panel enabling message correction capabilities prior to data submission — is the one that can enhance autocorrect on both iOS and OSX. If activated, this feature would give users a second chance to review words and phrases modified by autocorrect before the message is actually sent.

The way this works is that, after you hit send, your message will be put on a short delay in which you’ll have the chance to review it. You’ll be shown a time window indicator onscreen, along with options to fix errors, ignore, reject and accept changes.

If you choose to fix errors, a new screen will show the message along with a number of additional choices for autocorrected words. This feature can be taught to suggest words used most often and hide those that are rarely used. Here’s a diagram that breaks the whole process down fairly simply:

Apple autocorrect patent

Apple’s other application — Automatically changing a language for electronic messages — describes a way for your device to instinctively select a language for sending a message based on data like who you’re talking with, or what you’re responding to.

If the system identifies you’ve received a message in Spanish, for instance, it will automatically pull up a Spanish software keyboard for you to respond. This could be very helpful to anyone that uses multiple languages, and constantly needs to manually readjust their keyboard.

Of course, these are just patent applications, so there’s no way to know whether or not this technology will show up in a future Apple device. I’d really like to see both, though; especially that autocorrect feature. As long as you don’t mind the slight delay, it could mean the difference between sending a coherent text message and becoming part of a meme.

This post was updated at 7:11am to revise the headline and clarify that these are patent applications, not patents.

9 Responses to “Apple dreams up a better autocorrect”

  1. Marcos_El_Malo

    The current state of autocorrect in iOS 7 is pretty dreadful. The worst example that I get fairly frequently is the substitution of an exclamation point after I have typed a comma. Buzz are! See, it made another booboo when I typed bizarre. Buzz are?

    It has been suggested that I reset the keyboard. Did it. Didn’t fix the problem.

  2. This sounds jiggered up into unnecessary complexity just to justify getting a patent. I worry more about getting the spelling right when I write something that with having a irritating double-check later.

    The reality is that OS X’s spelling suggestions, based on open-source code, are dreadful. About a third the time, it offers no suggestions. Even a single missing letter or two transposed letters can leave it clueless. And yet when I cut and paste that same misspelled word into a Google search, Google not only comes up with the right spelling about 98% of the time, it does so with but one suggestion.

    I’d be happy if OS X’s spell-checker had an option that said, “Get correct spelling from Google.” And if Apple can’t stomach that, they should fix their spell-correcting code to be as good as Google’s. Google is a competitor. Compete with them!

    This is no minor hitch. I’m not the world’s greatest speller, so this holds me up repeatedly throughout the day. “Apple has over $100 billion in the bank,” I tell myself, “why can’t they spend a few hundred thousand getting spell correction right.”

    And while they’re at it, they might improve the tools those who write text apps use to give us software. Build in better multi-lingual support. Let us add user-spellings that are document specific. Sometimes we don’t want a quirky spelling (i.e. a corporate name) to stay with us forever. And for rtf, give us paragraph and text styles. They’ve been part of Word and rtf since the late 1980s. And how about built-in GREP searching for text apps. The code to do that must be open source. And make exporting to epub as easy as PDF has always been with OS X. This is the mobile device age for pete’s sake. I can’t display a readable 8.5×11 pdf on my iPhone. And look and learn from all the Markdown apps for OS X and iOS. Build Markdown support into both operating systems.

  3. “The first patent — …”
    “Apple’s other patent —”
    “Of course, these are just patents, so …”
    No, they are patent APPLICATIONS. The save mistake the times. So, this is not a typo. It’s a misunderstanding as to what is or is not a patent.

    Geez. If GigaOm writers don’t even know this, how can any if the writers have any voice of authority in the subject.

      • Even the original title of the post “Apple PATENTS a better autocorrect” had to be clarified to “Apple DREAMS UP a better autocorrect.”

        Wow. At least you corrected the post, so thanks for that. But wow.

        Well, here’s to GigaOm understanding what the heck they are talking about. This also goes towards GigaOm’s biased view against inventors because of their stance on so called “patent trolls”, who are not trolls, but assertion entities filling a market need to help protect inventor’s rights.