Talk to me!

“Ok Google, whats the weather going to be like today?”

What a magical experience it is to be able to speak to a machine in such a natural way and get a human like response. The human voice is one of the most natural ways of use communicating, one that we use from the day we are born.

According to Cisco, this year we will see about 25 billion things get connected to the internet. Thats a lot of things. Now imagine each one needs a way for you to interact with them, each one has a different app, a different interface, interacting with all of these suddenly starts to get a little messy.

It feels like we have spent the last 7 years or so educating people about interacting through touch and gestures but is the traditional graphical interface the smartest way going forward to connect humans and tech?

In steps voice controlled interfaces.

Ok, so voice recognition or voice controlled interfaces is not a new phenomenon, pioneering software like Dragon Speech Recognition was released in the 80's and companies like Nuance have been flying the flag since the mid 90's. Its hard to believe that even more recognisable systems using voice control like Siri on iPhone are already 3 years old.

Apple’s Siri

But having said all the above it stills feels like the technology hasn’t quite seen mass adoption among the public. Why is that? Systems are definitely getting more sophisticated and we have seen some massive advancements over the past few years in natural language interfaces with the likes of Xbox Kinect voice and Ok Google. These services are slowly filtering themselves into our daily routines, but there still feels like there is something holding us back from truly embracing it.

Maybe its the command led interaction the majority of systems currently adopt, where a user speaks a phrase into a device e.g play film, the device interprets the phrase and translates it into the appropriate command. This is a great but ultimately I’m just telling a machine to do something, although i get a response its still kind of a one way conversation, maybe we crave more from the thing we are interacting with.

Maybe its the lack of things currently supporting voice control. Maybe people have been put off by the early attempts which weren’t quite up to scratch, natural language control is hard for a machine to do.

This however I believe this will start to change in 2015, more companies like wit.ai will start to emerge offering affordable ways for developers to include natural language control into their things, also there will be a huge increase in the next wave of smarter systems. The recent releases of solutions like Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s echo and Jibo to name a few are moving us in the right direction, moving us to more ambient intelligence. Systems we talk to, interact with on a human level, systems that have the capabilities to learn from us creating a more human interaction.

Amazon Echo
JIBO, Worlds First Family Robot

Now I’m not suggesting we will all be talking to every device we have in the next year, voice control is not the answer to every situation, but with recent advancements, used correctly and designed well it has the power to make our interactions with technology much easier, more magical and ultimately more human.

Here’s to talking more in 2015.

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