If you’ve been the victim of auto-correction fails (and who hasn’t?), Apple might have a fix ready and waiting.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Thursday published an Apple patent application that would tell a message’s recipient when the iOS auto-correct feature has been in use. The technology would tell your friends what you might have really meant, if not for Apple’s unilateral (and sometimes-misguided) attempts at determining what you really wanted to say.
“To enhance the convenience of electronic messages, some electronic devices replace character strings entered by a user with replacement character strings,” the patent application reads. “However, if the replacement character string is not the string intended by the sender of the message, a recipient of the message may be confused by the message. Furthermore, if the sender of the message does not realize that the sent message included an unintended character string, the sender may not know to clarify the message. To address this confusion, the recipient and the sender exchange additional messages, which is tedious, creates cognitive burdens, and takes longer than necessary (thereby wasting energy).”
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Indeed, the Internet is filled with examples of auto-correct—both in iOS and on other platforms—hilariously mistaking what a person was trying to say. And if the sender doesn’t catch the mistake in time, the recipient can be left with the wrong impression, or worse, an offending message that needs to be explained.
Auto-correct, in other words, has become a major culprit for miscommunication.
That said, auto-correct has an important function. The feature, which is available on a wide range keyboards in addition to the one baked into Apple’s iOS, tries to determine what a person is attempting to type. From there, if it believes a word is typed incorrectly or something else is meant, it automatically switches it. In some cases, it works well, and fixes spelling errors. Apple highlights its auto-correcting to senders by underlining words, alerting users to fixes they might want to make before they send off a message. Quick typists or those who don’t double-check their work, however, could send something they wish they hadn’t.
Apple’s patent application, which was earlier discovered by Apple-tracking site AppleInsider, would still send the auto-corrected message, but would no longer leave recipients in the dark. Instead, the company would alert recipients to the words that had been auto-corrected and show several alternatives to hopefully provide a bit more insight into what the person really meant.
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While this all sounds great, the question now is whether Apple (AAPL) will actually offer the technology in iOS. Major companies like Apple file for patents on a continual basis and many of the technologies they patent never launch.
Will this invention find its way to that ever-growing junk heap or will Apple finally end the tragedy of auto-correct?
So far, the company isn’t saying: Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.