Siri: Why It's Great for Private Devices Only
Star Trek has colored all our technological expectations for years. Before the cell phone, there was the communicator. Before the iPad there was the PADD. Now, with the release of Siri by Apple on the iPhone 4S, there is a plausible method of communicating with the computer/television/ship/car/toaster with natural voice control. It's exciting, it's futuristic, and it seems to be all the rage with tech pundits across the Interwebs. But there is one problem: voice control in a public setting, without volume control or voice recognition, just doesn't work with our current technology.Siri is an innovation in personal computing. Ask "her" a question, and Siri will respond with an answer. Ask "her" to adjust your schedule, and she will do so with verbal confirmation. All this works within the realm of a personal question or personal request, much in the same way a personal question or request of your Personal Assistant would be handled. But how well does voice commands work within a crowded room, without a way to block all the background noise? This is the question technical pundits need to ask themselves before they start gushing on the possibility of a Siri-activated Apple TV. Case in point: Our Chevy Traverse came with voice activated commands as part of it's OnStar service. When the sales person was trying to demonstrate this for us, he couldn't get it to work without rolling up the windows. To this date it is a feature we rarely use, because the children in the back cannot remain quiet long enough to accomplish anything. So how is Siri going to work in a crowded family room or living room with chatter going on in the background? I don't see it happening. A car I see as being borderline, as you can commute alone occasionally. But in front of a social experience like the old TV, I just don't see it happening.You see, Television, since it's inception, had always been a "social" event, in that people would gather together and watch what was on. Whether it was "Howdy Doody", "Uncle Milt", or "Ed Sullivan", the family always gathered together to share the experience. Families do that now, to a certain extent, with various programs available now. The background noise alone becomes problematic without using a microphone or voice recognition. But, that would mean only one person is in control at a time (just like we are now with the remote), and adds in the initial frustration of imperfect voice recognition (it's getting better, but still not perfect out of the box). So when it comes to ideas about a Siri powered TV, I just don't see how anyone can do that. The technology we have currently limits natural voice commands to a personal experience. Now, is it possible Apple could have come up with a revolutionary way to get rid of background noise and make it work? Sure, it's possible. But is it probable? I don't think so. Not to doubt Apple, but I think it's not likely that the tech is ready for the regular consumer. What do you think?