Apple’s newly announced Personal Voice technology enables an iPhone to read text in the user’s own voice. The same tech could be used to read incoming text messages in the sender’s own voice, making them feel more personal.
This isn’t a theory — Apple submitted a patent for exactly this idea in early 2023.
An accessibility feature… for now
Apple unveiled Personal Voice as part of a collection of accessibility features it promised to add to iPhone and iPad. Those who are losing their ability to speak can create a simulated voice that sounds like their own. They can then type sentences to be spoken in this personalized voice.
Given the timing of the announcement, the feature is likely to debut in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 when they launch in early autumn.
Apple seems ready to expand Personal Voice capabilities
A recent patent filing by Apple shows that Personal Voice could be expanded so that incoming text messages could be read aloud in the sender’s own voice, rather than a generic one.
The patent filing proposes enabling users to create a personalized voice model for themselves with software on their iPhone or other Apple device. When texting with a friend, coworker, etc., they’d have the option to send that voice model to the message recipient (shown above). The second user could choose whether to receive the voice model, which would then be used to read aloud messages coming from the first person.
If available, texting with Personal Voice probably won’t become the norm — most people will almost certainly prefer to just read their messages. But the technology could be useful while driving. And HomePod smart speakers can read text messages aloud, too.
A strong possibility
Ordinarily, a patent application isn’t strong evidence that Apple intends to make the product described in the filing. It files many patents that go nowhere.
But the announcement of Personal Voice shows Apple has developed much of the technology needed to make personalized voices for texts a reality. So it could be part of iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 when they are revealed at WWDDC 23 in June.