Why Can’t We Talk To Our Computers?

Last night I was lying in bed under 4 blankets because it was so cold in my apartment, I dared not leave their protection. But it was also late and I wanted to turn off my music, which meant I had to venture an arm out of it’s warm sanctuary to grab the remote. Quickly I grabbed the remote, paused iTunes and retreated back to my bundle of warmth. This got me thinking though, why can’t we tell our computers what to do yet?

When thinking about voice recognition my mind immediately goes to Star Trek: The Next Generation and their computer system. You need an Earl Grey, hot? You got it. Where on the Enterprise is Deanna Troy? Holodeck 3, no big deal. The idea is such a simple one but so far it doesn’t feel like it’s approaching the home computer market. These days you can climb into any number of high end cars and give it voice commands to call your wife or give you directions to the nearest Starbucks. The newest iPhone has Voice Control which lets you call people in your contacts or play songs in your iTunes.

So why can’t I give my home computer commands just like these? So if I’m in bed and don’t want to grab the remote, I can ask the computer “Pause iTunes” and BAM, iTunes is paused. Or how about something more complex like asking the computer to Google a recipe for roast duck? Maybe you could ask the computer to set up a video Skype call to your aunt Beth? What about opening that PDF your client sent you with the specs for their upcoming campaign? These are all relatively simple tasks that would take you less than a minute to do but could be done with less effort with voice commands.

Now would something like this be easy to do? Probably not. Is it impossible? By no means at all. This is a technology that we’ve been dreaming of for years that just hasn’t happened yet. Take a moment and think about the iPhone… you carry around a tricorder in your pocket.

Update: I was thinking about it a little more and the way I see voice commands is along the line of having a mouse on a desktop computer. You don’t think twice about your mouse, it is the primary way we all interact with the our operating system (for now). Voice commands should be just as natural, allowing you to control your computer with a whim or a word.


December 8, 2009