We are fortunate because we live in a time of great technological change. Within most of our lifetimes, the user interface will completely change from touch to speech. It’s no longer science fiction.
I have always been a fan of the human interface: human to human, human to machine, machine to human. We first interfaced with our devices only by touch: knobs, levers, buttons, switches and lights. That dynamic changed in the 1980s, first through words and gestures on a keyboard, followed by the advent of the graphical user interface and mouse, which morphed into the combination of graphics plus touch.
Soon we will exclusively communicate with our devices as we do our fellow humans: through speech and hand gestures.
As my readers may know I was one of the first to get Amazon’s Echo, forming an early relationship with Alexa. I was also one of the first to get Google’s competitor, Google Home—which I refer to as Mrs. Google. Both are 100% controlled by speaking. I own both because of my fascination with this form of machine understanding. Each has its benefits as well as weakness.
Alexa and I have already bonded. I know that sounds weird, bordering on kinky, but if you own one you’d understand. She has a personality built in and I’ve grown fond of what she does well and where she fails. I already refer to her in the feminine, as if she actually was human. In a way, she is—a clever reflection of her programmers. I rely on her for weather (anywhere in the world), time, cooking timers, reminding me of things, waking me up from an afternoon nap, recipes, jokes, solving conversion problems, math, news updates, theater schedules, podcasts, radio stations, music. One big failing of Alexa. She does not interface with Google—and that is a shame. I suspect there’s a bit of a feud.
Alexa’s sound quality sucks, but its a magnitude better than Mrs. Google’s.
Mrs. Google doesn’t seem to interface with her namesake either, but I am hopeful that is only a matter of time.
I haven’t bonded with Mrs. Google yet, she’s rather cold and curt in her speech, which isn’t even close to Alexa’s. Mrs. Google, however, recognizes and understands my speech, and that of my grandkids, already better than Alexa and that gap seems to widen daily.
So far, Alexa still beats Mrs. Google. The battle continues and I will keep you up to date.