It seems to me…
“Computers are getting smarter all the time. Scientists tell us that soon they will be able to talk to us. (And by ‘they’, I mean ‘computers’. I doubt scientists will ever be able to talk to us.)” ~ Dave Barry.
All currently available methods of interaction with any type of computing device remains primitive and in need of considerable improvement. The recent gesture and application-oriented user interface on notepad computers represent only a partial improvement over more traditional WIMP (window, icon, menu, and pointing device) interfaces. In case no one noticed, humans normally communicate by talking; only the hearing-impaired communicate using their hands (though I’ve noticed some people use their hand while driving to communicate with other drivers though that probably implies mental rather than hearing impairment).
Voice control is slowly being integrated onto phones and notepads permitting mapping searches, location navigation, calling people/businesses, sending texts/e‑mails, and browsing to Web sites. Voice input is significantly faster than typing since most people are able to speak more rapidly than they can type (unfortunately, especially when they have nothing to say…).
The average user of recent versions of Microsoft Windows may not even realize Speech Recognition came as part of their operating system since it is not on the Start menu. The voice-to-text engine found in MS Vista Speech Recognition is powerful, intuitive, and extensive.
Apple is heavily integrating voice control into its new IPhone after an acquisition last year made it possible. An intelligent assistant,known as “Siri”, built into the IPhone allows you to make things happen simply by asking your phone to do something. Androids provide a similar but much less capable voice function.
Speech recognition is the process of capturing spoken words using a sound input device such as a microphone or telephone and converting them into digitized words or commands. The first speech recognizer appeared in 1952 and consisted of a device only able to recognize single spoken digits but this capability has improved significantly over the years. Many electronic systems and software now can accept full conversational-speed speech input which then is translated into computer-recognizable form using current speech recognition software.
More than just speech recognition, speech understanding is the ultimate interface but will have to wait for further advances in artificial intelligence. ELIZA, a computer program written at MIT by Joseph Weizenbaum prior to 1966 was an early example of primitive natural language processing and one of the first chatterbots ever written (and still available for download). Though ELIZA used typed text input, it provided an elementary illusion of a conversational capability.
Current improvements in full natural language (speech) recognition and additional device availability provides increased incentive for research leading to eventual support for at least some form of limited conversation interaction. Some day, hopefully in the not too distant future, we will have our own personal digital assistant able to respond to our spoken commands and request additional clarification when necessary.
On second thought, this might not be such a great idea. Now when you walk into a Starbucks, there only is an occasional person on their computer talking to someone using Skype. It always is obvious what they are doing since they are sitting by themselves with no one at adjoining tables talking sufficiently loud that the person to whom they are talking probably could hear them if they stepped outside. Everyone has to listen to every word said: “Did you hear about the dumb thing that…”. No, and we really do not want to.
Think what it would be like to have 100 or so Starbuck customers sipping their tall half-skinny half-1 percent extra hot split quad shot (two shots decaf, two shots regular) latte with whip while telling their computer what to do (or more likely – where to go).
Ah, yeh! On second thought, let’s think about this for awhile…
That’s what I think, what about you?