Apple Patent Could Make Autocorrect Gaffes a Thing of the Past


Although the autocorrect feature found in Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS is supposed to eliminate a user’s typos, anyone who has ever hastily typed a message on a mobile device has probably experienced the annoyance of having a misspelled word replaced with an incorrect substitute. However, a recently published Apple patent uncovered by Apple Insider outlines a method that may make autocorrect blunders a thing of the past.

As noted by Apple in the patent background, although autocorrect can be a “great feature,” it also has many shortcomings in its current form. For example, the autocorrect feature often unintentionally changes words “based on simplistic grammar rules,” rather than the unique rules often found “in the mobile or instant messaging environment.”

In the patent titled, “Transient Panel Enabling Message Correction Capabilities Prior to Data Submission,” Apple describes an improved system for verifying autocorrect changes before the message is sent. Per the patent abstract, the system “allows a user an opportunity to make final corrections to textual data in a message after the user has instructed the device to send the message, but before transmittal of the message.”

Currently, the autocorrect feature on Apple’s iPhone only allows users to change autocorrected words before the message is sent. While this seems like a minor change, it is a vast improvement over the previous method, since it makes the reviewing step a seamless part of the messaging process.

Although the new method embeds the autocorrect review step into the overall messaging process, the step still remains unobtrusive, since it doesn’t require any action from the user. Per the abstract, “The opportunity is temporary, to avoid impeding the flow of communication, and the textual data is transmitted unmodified if the opportunity to modify it is not accepted.”

According to Apple, the opportunity to undo unwanted word changes may only last a few seconds in order to avoid slowing down a “fast-moving texting session.” However, users may also have the ability to customize the length of the opportunity time period based on their individual preferences.

Finally, the enhanced autocorrect feature is also adaptable. According to Apple, “Modifications made during the opportunity period may be used to adapt an autocorrect functionality of the programmable device.” In other words, the device will learn to improve its autocorrect suggestions based on a user’s previous revisions.

As an example, Apple noted that many Indian iPhone users often transliterate Hindi words into the Latin alphabet. The Hindi word for “Friend” is often written as “Yaar” in text messages. The current English-language autocorrect feature usually replaces “Yaar” with “Year.”

However, Apple’s new autocorrect system would provide many Indian iPhone users with a seamless method for ensuring that their messages have not been incorrectly altered. The new system would also intelligently modify its autocorrect suggestions based on a user’s previous input. Although it is not known when Apple will begin using this revised autocorrect system, the company is widely expected to release a new iOS version this fall.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter (@ArnoldEtan_WSCS)

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