A few months ago, I was at the Engadget Show listening to Steve Wozniak answer a question about where he thought computing was headed. His answer? Voice. At the time, I was sitting there thinking to myself “Nah, no way.”
Wow, was I wrong.
Fast-forward to late last week. I had a fascinating conversation with Georgia Tech’s Keith McGreggor about what Siri is beginning to do to the way we interact with devices. My initial thoughts were (and to a small degree still are) that it’s unnatural to talk to a phone for the purpose of voice commands. Granted, the same thing is essentially happening when you’re talking on the phone or on Skype, but in that case, you know that an actual person is on the other end.
But in the case of Siri, is there a person on the other end? We’re starting to see the personification of computing; you’re not talking to the “Voice Activated Command Module”, you’re talking to Siri. When the release first came out, I was a little confused as to why Apple didn’t rebrand Siri to something more Apple-esque, like “Assistant” or “Navigator”. But then I thought about the personal touch that “Siri” gives. There’s even a few people named Siri. It’s human, it’s natural, and it works.
To take it a step further, it’s really mind-blowing to think about what happens if (but more likely when) this voice interaction becomes not only natural and comfortable, but integrated with everything we do. Keith mentioned the idea of building Siri into Apple TV and being able to walk into the living room, sit down, and say “Let’s watch some football.” (I wouldn’t say that myself, but you get the point).
Even cooler would be to see this tie into an Internet of Things – walk into your kitchen, say “Huh, I’m feeling like some toast”, and have two slices of bread drop from the celling into a just-activated toaster. Slight joke, but the idea stands. When Siri opens up and becomes a platform, a medium for other devices, that’s where it gets big.
And we’re only at the beginning of the beginning.