Is iOS5’s Assistant Going To Be Voice Control On Steroids?

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“Remind me to watch the Doctor Who season finale this Saturday.”

If new reports are to be believed, then the iPhone 5’s new Assistant functionality can take voice input like that and automagically convert it into an entry in iOS 5’s Reminders app. 9to5Mac’s sources have come forward with boatloads of new details about Apple’s attempts to shoehorn voice commands into iOS, and if true, they paint quite the compelling picture.

British sci-fi reminders aside, Assistant is said to be embedded deep within iOS, connecting it to just about all other facets of the iPhone 5’s software. It’s activated by briefly holding down the home button, at which point a small microphone window pops up from the bottom of the screen.

Traditional voice commands like “Call Greg Kumparak” all still work just fine, but Assistant is apparently savvy enough to interpret conversational language and convert it into tasks the iPhone can execute. Tell it to give you directions to your favorite Thai restaurant, for example, and the iPhone apparently complies. 9to5Mac’s sources don’t mention how exactly Assistant responds (does it provide audible directions? does it kick off Google Maps?), but I suppose those sources had to be judicious with what they could and couldn’t say.

A conversation mode is also thrown into the mix, where Assistant asks a series of related questions in order to complete a task. If I ask the iPhone to “schedule a meeting with Steven Moffat,” it could respond asking for the time and date. Once I provide those, it could ask about how Steven should be contacted, and so on and so forth.

Of course, this wouldn’t be worth a damn unless voice recognition and interpretation was spot on. That’s where Siri comes in: Apple scooped up the company last year, and it is Siri’s work with AI and voice response systems that give Assistant the extra bit of oomph that Voice Commands never had. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit enunciating my syllables into my Android Device Of The Week, so a cleaner solution like Assistant could give iOS users something to crow about.

Alas, you won’t be using Assistant if you’ve got anything but the latest and great from Cupertino. Assistant takes full advantage of the iPhone 5’s A5 processor and 1 GB of RAM, so users looking to talk to their phones (as opposed to on them) will have to upgrade.

As is always the case with leaks, it’s possible that all this talk of Assistant is utter bunk. Still, it certainly falls in line with many of the rumors that have been flying around, and Assistant’s capabilities certainly line up in ways that will almost certainly help Apple. Accessibility, for example, has always been a big focus for Apple. If Stevie Wonder gets a kick out of iOS now, he’d probably love Assistant. With some sort of iDevice coming down the pipeline this October, we’ll soon find out for sure, but here’s hoping that Assistant really makes the grade.