The Future As Seen By Me In 2010

Well looky here, things one has scanned in eh. (ignore the photo, that's some guy that made some accounting software, not sure what became of him ;) MIKE RIVERSDALE is fuming. The expensive headphones he bought in Sydney three weeks ago have just died. His first reaction is not to randomly spill expletives into his coffee, but to use his iPhone to vent his frustration to his Twitter con- tacts, under the moniker Miramar Mike. "I will also put, 'What should I do?' It's a conversation. I'm reaching out to the people following me." The council predicts hand-held digital devices such as smartphones will rule the world in 2040. They already rule the life of Mr Riversdale, whose company WaveAdept helps businesses adapt - their computing sys- tems to allow staff to work from anywhere - and with anyone. In order of fre- equency, he uses his iPhone to tweet (1136 followers; 8363 tweets since joining), e-mail, make phone calls and use online services, such as checki

Voice, It's The Way Computing Will Be

I have a prediction, voice is the next wave of 'consumer' computing and this will, much like cloud computing, have a subsequent pressure on the internal workings of companies and governments.
Cloud computing rushed into consumer lives as music, video, and even the boring household spreadsheet all moved to the cloud leaving CDs, DVDS, collections of VHS tapes, and masses of post-it notes, notebooks, and calendars in  the past.
Around 2011, Siri emerged on Apple iPhones as the first voice assistant accessible to consumers. This innovation led to a dramatic shift to building voice-first computing architectures. PS4 was released by Sony in North America in 2013 (70+ million devices), Amazon released the Amazon Echo in 2014 (30+ million devices), Microsoft released Cortana (2015 - 400 million Windows 10 users), Google released Google Assistant (2016 - 2 billion active monthly users on Android phones), and Apple released HomePod (2018 - 500,000 devices sold and 1 billion devices active with iOS/Siri). These shifts, along with advancements in cloud infrastructure (e.g. Amazon Web Services) and codecs, have solidified the voice computing field and made it widely relevant to the public at large. 
source: Wikipedia: Voice computing 
With the cloud and relatively quick shift in how we used computing outside the workplace it inevitably put pressure on the way IT Departments* delivered tools demanded by those that do the work and how they delivered services out to customers and citizens.

Cloud computing required a number of items to come to fruition, cheap, reliable, and fast internet connections, sophisticated web development tools, and computers in the hands of enough people. From the service providers pov we also needed the growth of data centres, together with up-times** of 100%, or as many 9's as possible.

All of this is now forgotten and, even at the time, ignored by the masses. Many just took the new tech, saw what was now on offer and ran with it. "Store my ALL photos online, awesome!", "Connect with my mates long lost, bloody yes!", "Watch movies where I want, yes please!"

[I'm not here to discuss the many downsides of this technology, I will do that in a follow-up post]

Voice computing also requires a number of base technologies to be in place before it can spread widely. I believe we are in the early days of consumer uptake of voice and these technologies are rapidly evolving and growing to a point where they become the norm.

Voice requires the ability to listen and comprehend (I won't say "understand", that's next level and is some way off), and with chip + mic tech we are close to the "listen" - I still have to yell at my devices sometimes, it's not perfect.

Machine learning approaches ("A.I." if you want, but I don't) have certainly got us to the point where the first of these voice interactions via specific devices (mobile devices, smart speakers, smart TVs etc) are now able to do a limited number of prescribed actions.

"Ok Google, turn on the TV."
"Alexa, play some music."
"Hey Siri, what's my next appointment?"
"Ok Google, navigate to the library."

They hear, they comprehend, and they action ... most of the time. These prescribed simple actions can be chained together into 'routines", set to go off at prescribed times or places, or even as the result of some external event, "Alexa, turn up the heating when it gets cold"

All very simple, and far from the Star Trek computer we think of, "Computer, why did that Klingon ship veer off at that last attack?"

Or, "Ok Google, clear my day tomorrow as I wanna go to the cricket" - meetings are coordinated, tickets are purchased, alarms are set, friends invited, bank balances are checked, travel is booked, post game plans are drafted ... or it tells me it's likely to rain and double checks if I know what the hell I'm doing - it understands what "go to the cricket" means, for me.

But this, apparently is coming, and each "A.I." announcement seems to be a step along this way. Much like the incremental updates to web browsers together with the ever increase in affordable Internet access all lead to "cloud" being a thing so does the sophistication of the listening and comprehension lead to voice being a thing - think in your car, it's becoming all voice.

And when voice dominates the consumer world, as it will, what then for workplaces?

I leave you with a phrase I heard so many times during 2005, "Hah, you're mad Mike, no company is going to rely on someone else's computers to run their business."

Today's equivalent seems to be, "Hah, you're mad Mike, how on earth could voice replace keyboard in the workplace, it would be a cacophony and no-one could get anything done."

Both statements are wrong, the first we now know, the second we will realise soon.

Voice, it's the way computing will be in the near future, and I say, "Computer, play that funky music!"

More reading
  • Evolution of Speech Recognition Technology, Sahil Chauhan / Oct 22 2019
  • Voice Recognition: Beyond smart speakers, Winimy AI / Apr 4 2019
  • The evolution of voice in AI and IoT, Andy Baryer / Mar 5 2019
  • Microsoft’s Andrew Shuman on the Cortana app’s death, natural language, and Alexa, Emil Protalinski / Dec 23 2019

  • * despite decades of trendy name changes (Chief Digital Officers anyone?), and me saying they are doomed (seems they changed), this name seems to still fit the majority of people groupings for those deigned to work at making the computers do what they do.

    ** "up-time", who even thinks about this these days, everything is just there all the time, there is no such thing as "down for maintenance" anymore, or shouldn't be if you are living and working in the present day. And if it's not, it's a BIG DEAL!


    1. As I say (!), machines are definitely getting better at "comprehending" what we're saying to them but a long way from "understanding"


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