Tech

I’m Listening

Quietz!  I hearz sumpin coming...

Quietz! I hearz sumpin coming… (Photo credit: pjern)

Voice control of computers has been a dream since before Scotty tried to chat up an Apple Mac in that Star Trek film and now processing power is enabling it to be a reality even though it is still comparatively basic at the moment; even Apple’s Siri is a human-friendly front end of what is effectively a search engine.  Both Siri and Android’s voice actions allow commands to be given to the devices and although they are pretty good at recognising what you ask them to do it’s still not an artificial intelligence.

Nuance, the company that created the technology behind Siri, are working on voice recognition systems that don’t need to be told when to listen (by a tap or a voice command like “Hi Siri”, “Xbox listen” or “Computer?”).  These systems are always listening, just waiting for you to say something that it might be able to do something about; just mumble “I wonder what the weather’s going to be like at the weekend” and your phone will instantly have the weather news for you like the world’s fastest personal assistant, never having to be asked, always ready with the answer.  The idea has great potential in streamlining device use, or customizing the information shown on services like Google Now.

But how annoying could it become if you’re having a normal conversation or even talking to yourself and your phone lights up “sorry, I didn’t catch that, do you want me to find something for you?”  to which you instinctively say “no, I wasn’t talking to you.”  Even more annoying is when your phone replies “oh, well if you’re going to be like that.” and sulks for two days.

No doubt the software will eventually have ways of detecting whether there is more than one voice being heard so it can ignore questions that aren’t directed at it and just sit there making notes about what you and your friend, relative, partner or cat are talking about in case it can find something relevant should it be called upon but there could still be occasions when it may go off and search for something that it shouldn’t perhaps.  Will it apologise for getting you into an embarrassing situation based on something it heard on a tv show?

Of course this will have the conspiracy theorists worried that it’s sending everything you say to the government but that’s inevitable, they probably also think the government’s reading their emails too.  Now where’s my phone hiding?

[Gizmodo UK]

Standard
Tech

A Syncing Feeling

Cloud Computing Image

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some may be forgiven for thinking that The Cloud was something Apple invented due to the high-profile launch of iCloud – it’s much touted system for sharing content seamlessly between iDevices and Macs – but it was a ‘thing’ long before it was an ‘iThing’.

The ubiquity of internet connectivity has enabled cloud computing to blossom in recent years.  Now there are the online file storage and sharing services like  Box, Microsoft’s Skydrive and others; cloud disk drives like that provided by Dropbox (and the upcoming file system integration of Windows Skydrive); and automatic content syncing systems like iCloud.

The ultimate goal of cloud computing is beyond such storage and syncing of files and moves all of your apps and data onto remote servers operating in a similar way to the thin-client terminals that those of us old enough remember fondly.  Google’s ChromeOS running on ChromeBook laptops are the first foray into this new world however they assume a mostly connected situation and online OSes and apps won’t be replacing Windows, MacOS and desktop apps anytime soon though their features and functionality are improving all the time.

The most useful aspect of the cloud for me so far has been syncing of data.  To be able to add an item to my to-do list on either my laptop, netbook, tablet or, using the webapp, my work laptop and know that it’ll be there when I fire up one of the other devices is a joy.  My app of choice for this is Wunderlist but others have similar functionality.  (I also use the similarly syncable Evernote for more in-depth notes).  The same is true of having files I use on the laptop synced via Microsoft’s servers to my netbook whilst being simultaneously backed-up in the cloud as well.

The future may not be entirely based in the cloud but in huge server farms cooled by Arctic fjords our data will be shuffled between our devices and shared with our friends, seamlessly and effortlessly.

And I won’t have any excuses for forgetting to do something on my to-do list.

Standard