Everyone’s heard of Siri, Apple’s voice recognition software for iPhones that can perform many actions just by the user speaking into the phone. This voice recognition technology seems most prominent in smartphones, but one of the biggest companies in this industry, Nuance Communications, wants this technology in many more products. This company is widely believed to be behind Siri’s voice interface and has plans in the works with numerous other companies to implement this technology in other products. Not too long ago, products with touchscreens swept through the markets and were the most desired merchandise. The next trend to sweep through the markets is voice recognition technologies, and Siri is just the beginning.
Already, work is being done to implement this voice interface into television, cars, computers, and even wearable computers. The hope is that if someone is busy doing something like driving, or is eating dinner while watching TV, they would not have to use their hands to perform actions. The driver could address the technology and find directions or the nearest movie theater without having to take his or her eyes off the road. The person eating wouldn't have to put his or her fork down to change the channel or put on a movie. Nuance wants all the actions to be hands-free, eliminating the need to hit a bunch of buttons on your GPS or having to plug in the buttons on your TV remote. With simply speaking, this voice interface will perform your task.
Siri may be a good start, but there are still kinks that need to be worked out. First, Nuance hopes to improve on privacy concerns that people may have while using such software. Many voice recognition systems come with this privacy concern because they cannot distinguish between different voices. Nuance hopes to make it an option so that only the owner of a product with this technology could speak to it, so that strangers couldn't ask questions to a phone to find out private information. There is also plan to make it so that this software could hear over background noise, or recognize that you are in a conversation and not speaking to it to prevent accidental communication with the software.
One of the biggest concerns user would have is if this software is listening or recording conversations. Nuance hopes to develop technology that can go from “sleep-mode” to knowing that a person is talking to it. That means that it is always paying attention for trigger words that would let it know that a person is asking it do to something. Does that mean at all times, the software can hear all conversations? Can this be hacked and can strangers listen in on private conversations? Also, would private conversations be recorded and stored somewhere when they were not meant to be heard by the phone?
These issues clearly need to be addressed before the improved software is out on the market, but all in all the direction of this technology is headed in the right direction. While there are privacy issues, the substantial benefits of having this technology in many more products than just phones and computers as well as being able to perform hands-free tasks makes this technology very futuristic. It seems that the concerns for privacy can be addressed, and that this technology would be a great addition to many products.