Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Talking to Computers

Welcome to another installment of Computers As Humans, the tech blog that's plugged in and switched on.

At the Google I/O conference in San Francisco last week, web giants Google announced plans to introduce voice technology into their browser application, Google Chrome. Apparently the company is busy developing voice recognition and text-to-speech capabilities to be used on both mobile and desktop browsers alike.

As Ian Fette, product manager for Google Chrome put it, "There's voice recognition and there's text-to-speech so we figured, why not build that into our browsers." Fette, and the other good people at Google, are optimistic that by introducing such technology they can bring about a new industry standard.

The idea of being able to verbally tell your web browser where to go certainly sounds intriguing. Granted, many of us already do tell our web browsers just where they can go, particularly on days when they are running sluggishly. But apparently with Google's proposed new technology, your browser will actually be listening to you this time.

Fette for one, seems convinced that there will be a public demand for this sort of technology. "People want to speak their input for certain types of queries," he said.

Just what type of queries those are remains to be seen of course. Still, considering how much time we already spend on our computers, it's perhaps surprising we don't talk to them already. But if Fette is proven right, and voice input commands become standard on all browsers, we will certainly be increasing the amount of random chatter we hear on a day-to-day basis.

People are already walking down the street talking into headsets and earpieces. Imagine how it will be if everyone sitting at the cafes' working starts telling their computers what site they want to go to? Will computers start talking back? If so, what kind of voices will they have?

Maybe there will be apps that will allow you to choose your computer's voice. Kind of like the GPS app you can buy that makes Snoop Dogg the voice of your GPS? Whose would you choose if you could give your computer anyone's voice? I think if I could give my computer a voice, I'd give it Michael Caine's. Because if the future means we're all going to be sitting at our desks having conversations with inanimate objects, I at least want mine to sound charming.

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