The future – or the a version of the future as presented to us by Star Trek, Space 1999 and their equivalents – would see us interact with our computers by talking to them. They would understand, respond in a positive and soothing tone then effortlessly comply with a request to change course, run a query on alien life forms, or perform internal diagnostics.
How great then, the gap between this vision and our interactions with our present day computers. Most of the planet remains tethered to the keyboard, locked into this paradigm set down by the typewriter, a clumsy 19th century mechanical way of putting ink on paper.
So when Apple brought us the promise of dictation in its latest Mountain Lion update, here was a chance for a sizeable population – not just early adopters – to get a taste of the seamless voice interaction we were promised by the vision of the future.
Rather than review its performance (it works fine by the way) I’ll instead share a few thoughts on how it changed my interactions while creating a substantial report for a client .
-first, talking is not typing. Self-evident as it may seem, written words on a word processor offer a chance to delete, rearrange or otherwise tweak or finesse. By contrast, spoken words, once uttered, remain spoken. The part of the brain which connect the brains to the mouth are different from those connecting thoughts to fingers.
-speaking the same words out loud uses a different part of the brain from typing. Typing means ideas go from brain-to-finger-to-screen without being verbalised. Brain-to-mouth-to-screen is a different dynamic which we’ve yet to get used to.
-lastly, we are locked into the paradigm of fingers on keyboards. This is nowhere more evident than when an urgent response is needed to a mail or a skype chat. Yes, it’s easy to double tap a button and dictate, but over 30 years of muscle memory for hitting keys is hard to escape. It becomes the default way I interact.
But now voice recognition is built into every new Apple device – and doubtless in everything else by 2015 – we may yet see a new way of interacting with machines which might even begin to deliver on the futuristic promises of yesterday, and which could transform beyond recognition the power of written communication.
Here’s a couple of other blogs on the same topic
FROM STAR TREK TO SIRI: GIVING YOUR COMPUTER A SAY
Vodafone Australia: Inspired by Star Trek – Part 2
Disclaimer: Nothing in this blog should lead you to believe that I am a Trekkie.