The Future of Computers: Voice Recognition
It is widely speculated that after touch screen computers and convertibles (laptop/tablet hybrids) peak within the market, manufacturers will shift their focus to voice recognition. But is this really feasible? What will it take for computers to recognize our words with the same precision as the click of a mouse?
It could start with search, smartphones and Web browsing. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has invested a lot of money in the technology, offering a free Chrome tool to those who would like to type with their voice (among other things). It is not a new idea, but it is a necessary step in creating a system that recognizes voice with the degree of reliability that people have come to expect from traditional typing.
Many would argue that accuracy still needs much improvement, and should not be relied upon for the foreseeable future, but it is paramount if the tech industry intends for voice recognition to be the next popular trend in computing.
It is not yet known whether personal or professional users will benefit from this venture. In theory, business users have the most to gain. Busy executives could feasibly produce memos, send e-mails, tweak Excel documents and perform other simple tasks without having to physically touch a computer. Technically these things should already be possible, but they have yet to be perfected so it is often easier to do them the traditional way (by sitting in front of a computer screen with a mouse and keyboard). When these processes are perfected, voice recognition technology could be easier, faster and more desirable.
Consumers have a lot to look forward to as well. When search tools advance beyond the simplicity of Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) Siri, users should be able to tell their favorite Web browser to search for anything. There will not be any hiccups, mistakes or silly questions asking the user to repeat the search query. Rather, the computer will reliably understand everything the user is saying and deliver an appropriate response.
Long-term, the real innovations will come from the software applications that have yet to be developed. The problem with the current crop of voice-activated devices and software tools is that they only provide an alternative to what is currently available. It is not innovative -- or creative -- for tech companies to simply replace the mouse and keyboard, as motion controls and touch screens have a better shot of doing that anyway. True innovation comes from things that users did not know they needed, thus the birth of the mouse and keyboard. They did not merely replace another form of computing -- they created an entirely new user interface. Without the mouse, computers would not be where they are today.
For voice recognition to be truly successful and useful, it needs to produce a similar level of innovation. Until then it will be relegated to the likes of Siri, which was more commercial hype than professional execution.
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