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Recently, I’ve had a few chats to my various bits of technology. I can ask my phone to send a text to Rachel, and I can ask it what I’m doing tomorrow. I can ask it a number of things*.

I’m also likely as not to ask my tv and Xbox to turn itself on, go to TV or mute the volume. Revolutionary.

I’m not about to say this is easier than picking up a remote or typing into a keyboard what I want. It’s often not quicker, not easier and often gets it wrong.

There is something else wrong though – and that’s the fact that the devices I use just aren’t gobby enough. They don’t talk enough.

The thing about voice as an input method is that it needs, I think voice prompts from us. We’re likely to respond by voice if asked by voice, and likely to respond by
other means if that’s how we’re predominantly asked. I want my phone to pipe up and say “is now a good time to tell you what’s on tv tonight?” or “have you thought about what’s for dinner? I can suggest a lovely recipe using what I can see in your fridge”…to which I can say “no, sod off” and “How do you know what’s in my fridge”.

When I say I want to watch tv, I want the Xbox to ask me which channel, and is the volume right? I want it to have thought about other shows I want to watch then talk to me about those? like as in: “hey, Rich, are you interested in Sex, and cities? then you might like Sex in the City?”

At the moment, aside from comprehension and accuracy, the problem with voice as an input type is that it’s not ubiquitous, and doesn’t occur in a conversation. Perhaps that’s the trick – Technology designers should be thinking of ‘Conversation Mode’ rather than ‘Voice Mode’.

*NB: I should say that Google Now does talk back, but not always unbidden, and not without sounding sadly a tad robotic. That said, you should try it if you have the chance. Also note – I know Siri exists (blah blah, but it really isn’t as good as Google Now)

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