Thursday, April 03, 2008

Commentary: The Future is in Voice Recognition + Search

I am hereby putting this in writing, so that I can say in a few years to people "I told you so!" sort of things. I have been saying this for the past 2 years or so and each time I said this to my other geek colleagues, they almost always laugh.

When I was a kid in Japan and when I visited my grandfather's place. There was this telephone without any dial at all. To make a phone call he would pick up the receiver, then there is a crank on the right of the phone which he turns a few times. An operator answers. He will tell the operator, to "Give me Maeda-san." and the operator knows who this is, where this person is, and connects. Even more, if this Maeda-san was not at home, the operator will try again and when he is back at home, connected, the operator will call back my grandfather and connects.

Sounds awfully antiquated, classic or whatever you would say because what you would do today is to go to your computer, start Outlook, type in Maeda, and find the name of the person, then find one of the phone numbers, call the guy, he isn't there, leave a message etc. And we call that high tech modern age stuff.

What, however will happen next is actually we will all go back to what my grandfather had in the first place. Except that it is wireless of course.

Most of us will have cell phones with basically nothing but a green and red button. It will fit almost in any pocket.

What you will do with it?

You command it with voice only and the computer intelligence behind it will do all of the reset of the work. It is connected with a complex search engine with a voice recognition software both on the phone and also on the remote phone switch too.

So just say that I have said to the phone, "Order Pizza" Here is what happens in the background.

- The location service on the phone would know if I am at home or office. If I have ordered a pizza before both from my office or home at different outfits, it will basically know which pizza place I am talking about. It will perhaps ask me "Call Harbor Pizza?" if I am calling from my home in Half Moon Bay, or "Call Brick Oven Pizza?" If I am in the office. Of course, I can be in totally different city in that case the search engine linking would suggest other places near by.

- Of course it is 7 PM and line is all busy but no problem, like a human operator would do, it would try calling on your behalf and then connects you up when the line is open.

- Let's say that I was in the different city and ordered a pizza. I would want to go and pick up the pizza. I would say to the phone. "Gide me to the pizza place." Of course the historical information would know that which pizza place it was, and with the GPS phone and voice navigation, there is no problem phone doing the navigation. The user still has not touched any dial at all!

I think we will all be having a phone that do this. And you know your search engine provider is scanning all your emails and everything you store in remotely hosted applications. It can have a lot of context as to what you are asking about.

Sure enough, bits and pieces of the technology is already out there. I use VoiceCommand on my Pocket PC all the time, and I speak to the robot at United Airlines too. I think that the integration of these stuff will make a phone with dials obsolete in a few years.
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