Apple iPhone patent shows company is working on a way to stop autocorrect ruining people’s lives

Autocorrect problems have become such a part of internet jokes that entire websites are devoted to them - but that might be about to come to an end

Andrew Griffin
Friday 29 April 2016 11:08
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A man tries out the iPhone SE in Tokyo
A man tries out the iPhone SE in Tokyo

Apple appears to be making a system to stop people getting embarrassed by their phone.

Autocorrect is a mostly useful feature that watches for when people appear to have mistyped and when they do swaps in the word it thinks that people were meaning to write. But it often goes very wrong, leading to embarrassment for people who have the wrong word swapped back in.

Now Apple is looking to fix that problem, or at least to make it easier to prove that people didn’t mean to write what they did.

A new patent describes a way that when a message is sent, iPhones would highlight any words that have been changed by the autocorrect feature. Clicking that highlight would let the user see what was originally typed, as well as any alternative words that might have been chosen.

In the patent, for instance, Apple shows an iPhone that has someone writing about a lunch meeting. “It was moved to tomorrow at 11,” the message reads. “Being lunch.”

It’s not an especially embarrassing slip, but the patent shows how the recipient of a message would be able to click on the highlighted word and see that the sender has typed “Bing”, and might well have meant to say “Bring” or “Boring”.

The way the feature would work is similar to that in iOS’s voice dictation feature. When that is used and the computer can’t know for certain that it got the transcription right, any problem words will be highlighted in blue so that they can be easily shown.

Apple files thousands of patents and many of them never make it to the phone. But the next likely time that it will arrive is in June, when Apple hosts its WWDC conference and is expected to show off iOS 10.

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