Untangling the web Gadgets

2017 is the year of Voice

Hands Free Devices like the Google Home speaker are ushering in the era of voice   | Photo Credit: Eric Risberg

Happy new year! Here’s to a fabulously connected year ahead, where we all hope the Internet does more good than harm.

As I’m sure you’ve been seeing, everyone’s making their top trends in 2017 lists. Full disclosure – I’m very bad at lists. So there is no list from me. What I really should have done is ask you what you thought the online trends of 2017 would be.

But all is not lost. Now that you know it’s in the offing, let’s plan our list for 2018 and I’ll work up an easy way for everyone to contribute. I promise! And we all have one whole year to prep.

For 2017, however, the one big thing that I believe will go mainstream is Voice.

Voice is the new interface

We’ve all seen this somewhere. Someone talks into a phone and something starts happening – music starts playing, lights go on, an Uber arrives at their door. All these things happen without them touching their smartphone. It all happens because they just spoke out loud, almost like making a wish.

Possibly the most familiar prompts for this seemingly magical virtual assistant are the phrases: “Hey Siri” and “OK Google”. Microsoft also has their virtual assistant Cortana and Amazon has Alexa, but more about those another day.

A dosa or a saucer?

Virtual assistants have been around for a while, and weren’t good for much, especially if you had any accent that wasn’t very American.

Each time I ask Siri, “Where can I get a dosa” it thinks I’m asking “Where can I get an awesome / saucer / Dawson”.

Google Now, however, has learnt a tremendous amount in the last few years and can recognise Indian accents, as well as many others. It totally understands that I want a dosa and pulls up Google Maps showing me a plethora of places to choose from, complete with reviews and travel times.

English-shminglish

Last October, Google announced that the second language they were adding to their shiny new artificial intelligence Google Assistant was Hindi. This is really big news for obvious reasons.

To make all this advanced technology accessible to the most number of people, we need an interface that’s so easy and intuitive, it’s natural. This interface isn’t a predictive keyboard in Tamil, or a touchscreen in Gujarati – it’s our voice. And not all of us speak English.

Imagine having all the information on the Internet available to you, by only having to ask a question, or voicing a thought, with the results delivered to you in your language. The applications and possibilities seem limitless.

Mainstream?

But ultimately, none of this will work unless we stop feeling like complete idiots while talking to our phones in public. This is the only reason I do not speak to my smartphone while out and about, and keep my conversations with virtual assistants limited to dinner party tricks, or asking about the weather in the confines of my home. Mainstream is when everyone is using voice all the time and the rest of us join in to stop looking like idiots.


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Printable version | Aug 4, 2021 2:43:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/gadgets/2017-is-the-year-of-Voice/article16983372.ece

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