Technology

Talk to Your Car

Voice integration coming to a car near youIf you’ve got the latest iPhone (or if you’ve seen an ad for it), you know what Siri is.  To whit: it’s a speech recognition interface that lets you control your phone by talking to it.  You can tell it to set reminders, find songs, or look up nearby pizza places; it listens to, and responds with, everyday American English.  It’s pretty damn cool on a phone, but that’s barely scratching the surface of its potential.

For example, I recently came across the following rumor that a certain auto maker may soon be integrating Siri technology into their cars:

During our tour of BMW and MOG’s impressive new car integration yesterday, the company let slip that it would love to implement Siri inside its vehicles.  We couldn’t get any more specifics about whether Siri voice controls were already in development, but the company expressed a great interest in making it happen.

If you could talk to your car, what would you say?  “Car, defrost the windows.”   “Car, who has the cheapest gas around here?”  “Car, I’m sick of this classic rock station, find me something else.”  And if it could talk back, it might remind you to get an oil change, warn you of an upcoming traffic jam (by tapping into existing GPS traffic services) or even alert you to dangerous conditions, all without taking your eyes off the road.  Pretty sweet!

Again, this is just speculation, though it strikes me as highly plausible.  Even if this particular rumor doesn’t pan out, I have zero doubt that voice-controlled interfaces will soon make their way into many applications.  Here are a couple things I’d prefer to converse with, if I could:

  1. My kitchen.  “Oven, 350 degrees for twenty minutes, then low heat for an hour.  Coffeemaker, make me four cups.”
  2. My bathroom.  “Shower, give me 102 degrees at 70% pressure.”
  3. My whole house.  “House, dim the lights, put on some Billie Holiday and order me a pizza – my usual.”

Then again, there’s at least one place where they already have voice control and I wish they’d just get rid of the horrible thing:

  • Customer service.  Every time the robot on the phone says “I’m sorry, I don’t recognize that command.  Did you say ‘banking?'” I want to scream.

So how about you?  If you could add voice recognition to your own life, where would you?  And what if it took hold everywhere?  Would that be a wondrous world-of-the-future, or a step down the slippery slope of the uncanny valley?

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4 thoughts on “Talk to Your Car

  1. I actually see most of the things you’ve predicted coming down the line, but I don’t see, and wouldn’t want, it to be integrated into every aspect of my life.

    In a car, it makes a lot of sense and would in fact be fantastically useful. But there are a great many applications where I would never want something like Siri to be involved. There’s a point where ordering my pizza and putting on music, without any effort from me, would lead to a lifestyle that is both physically and mentally lethargic. I don’t want that.

    There’s also an issue of cost. Not only of the increased cost of each system into which it is integrated, but also the expense of running it. If so many devices utilized this technology, the cost to both my electric bill, and to the environment by association, would be huge. Our already power hungry would become truly ravenous!

    Tell me when my upcoming meeting is, YES. Turn on my shower and brush my teeth, NO.

    • Good point about the energy use, although I haven’t done enough research to know how much of a problem this would really be.

      More intriguing is your suggestion that hands-off automation could increase general laziness. On the hopeful hand, previous generations have generally responded to automation by filling their time with other activities (if they hadn’t, we’d all still be farmers). On the cynical hand, when it comes to human laziness, there truly are no limits.

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