Siri & Google Now: Has Voice Control come of age?
Posted: 10th Jul 2012
Google Now learns organically what’s important to you
Hands up if you’re an iPhone 4S owner… Good, that’s a fair number of you, as we’d expect for Britain’s second best selling smartphone.
Now, put your hands down if you’ve never used Siri, the virtual assistant that recognises common language in order to answer questions and perform simple tasks, like setting calendar appointments or playing songs…
Even better. Looks like most iPhone 4S owners have used Siri at least once.
Now, our last test. Leave your hands up if you use Siri daily… Only a third of you? Oh well, that’s better than some expected, anyway – that’s roughly the number of iPhone 4S users who regularly turn to Siri for help according to the most recent research.
Still, we expect that more and more of you will become familiar and comfortable with voice interaction over the next few years.
With the next version of the Android operating system, 4.1 (aka Jelly Bean), Google is releasing an update which adds a Siri-like feature to other smartphones and tablets.
According to those who’ve used it, Google Now – as it’s called – is even better than Siri at figuring out what it is you want to do.
Google Now is designed to think about what it is you want to do before you say it. That way, it can prepare common events and has a better chance of working out what it is you’re trying to say when decoding a short recording of your voice.
What’s going to be really interesting, though, is whether or not Google Now or the update to Siri encourage more people to use voice commands. Contrary to popular belief, Siri is already really good at listening to accents and recognising words spoken in even the thickest lilt. Even if it was perfect, would more than a third of owners use it?
Paradoxically, voice commands seem more unnatural than using a keyboard or touchscreen. Even though speech is our preferred method of communication with other human beings, it feels somehow wrong when you’re talking to a computer or a phone. It’s really hard to talk to your phone in public without feeling like a bit of an idiot – especially if you have to keep repeating a question or instruction within earshot of someone because the voice recognition engine can’t work out what you’re trying to say.
The advantage of a keyboard or touchscreen is that people around you don’t know what you’re texting or searching for on the web.
Still, voice command is going to catch on. And much like bluetooth headsets, actions that feel peculiar, private or make you feel awkward in public may become second nature in the future. Twenty years ago, using a mobile phone in public was likely to attract looks and laughter, but today you’re more likely to be considered odd if you don’t have one.
You might also like to read:
- How to make the most of Siri
- Microsoft Kinect video
- Google I/O 2012 round up
- Know everything about: Apple iOS 6
- It’s good to talk… to your PC
- Why motion control is the next big thing
- How to use BlackBerry Messenger