Monday, 16 August 2010

Calling All Computers...

My highly intelligent sources (AKA my wonderfully talented techy partner) are planting new scenarios in my head with regards to voice-controlled computing. We are already seeing the early stages of this on smart phones, and having a bit of a giggle with it along the way as it innocently searches for pornographic content when what you were actually looking for was 'a tasty duckling'...

However this is likely to take off in a much bigger way than simple phone interaction. It's a wonderful tool for the blind and those with severe dyslexia, for those of us who's brains work faster than our fingers ever can - the list is endless. Writing this post on my iPhone is already making my fingers ache - so what a cool premise to have a faster, more intelligent way to control our devices. However - in my current scenario there is one major factor that would stop me using this technology. Privacy.

You already get stared at for mouthing the words to a song whilst listening to your headphones in public, and the world thinks you've gone mad when you start aimlessly chatting away to yourself (until they notice the headphone wire you're ACTUALLY taking to). So what on earth would people think if you suddenly continued to write up the next section of your blog / text / book / essay / e-mail via oral interaction with your computing device? Unfortunately, they'd probably find it very interesting as we all enjoy nosing in on other people's lives, be it glancing over a shoulder on the tube, to watching 'reality' TV shows on the box. Call me snobbish, but personally I don't want anyone else to hear my intimate messages to my boyfriend, or my personal emails to my doctor, or my wholly honest reports of my staff performances.

Now think about this scenario in the workplace. We are already subject to noisy environments, what with phones ringing, iPhones tinkling and whooping, heated debates, couriers, meetings, gossips laughing in the kitchen. Add to that every single employee TALKING at their devices. ***shhhhh*** I like nothing more than to disappear into my headphones when I need to put my concentration solely into whatever piece I am working on, drowning out the unnecessary work noises around me. How would you do this if you had to be conversing with your device? And more so - just how are you to concentrate when everyone around you is doing the same thing?

I work in an open plan office, with wooden floors and wooden roofs. Its a glorious place to work, but it does nothing to sound proof from area to area. We are a media office, though, so tranquillity and calm are not part of the job description, so a bit of noise is to be expected. Enter the advent of voice controlled computing devices and we would have to enter a completely different environment; consisting of solitude and grey partition walls. No more free interaction. What an daunting prospect. Granted many people already work in places like this - but in my world of marketing and media, it simply doesn't work.

As a marketing team player, and all round employee, interaction with my direct team and the company as a whole is imperative for me to do my job. I need to turn the inner workings of the company into tangible and socially digestible tit-bits, and hence need an open platform to so. I do, however, appreciate that intellectual property is a very important thing, and whilst I embrace the open-source attitude to sharing marketing principles and strategies, there are times that an idea I am generating requires my sole attention to shape and develop before I unleash it on the world and claim the recognition for it in the fullness of time. How would you do this when you are having to audibly voice your thoughts, ideas, plans and formulas at your devices? You know the age old saying - the walls have ears. 

Would it not require a whole new level to Copyright and Patenting ideas?

As a complete geek, I have just finished listening to my Peter Hamilton audio book on the iPad, filled with the most radical sci-fi fantasy and outer-world ideas. In Hamilton's world, people have evolved to datavising - a telepathic form of communication that is controlled by the dataviser - i.e. your thoughts are still private - you only communicate your thoughts when you wish to converse. I'm sure that in time (although sadly not likely in my time) we will indeed have progressed to this; beyond audible communication between devices and indeed people. In 2010 this is not the case. But voice control is very real.

Many questions hovering over what is ultimately a very cool development in the computing world. Whilst I am a big fan of innovation, I think this will be next in line of a very long line of moral dilemmas in the digital era...

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