Diction, Dialog, Drats!

Voice Control is soon to be the ubiquitous interface, one famous man provides us with proper procedure to make it perfect. Always!

It has long been a dream to control systems and access information without the inconvenience or awkwardness of a physical interface. Touchscreen and mobile devices, (such as phones and tablets), all require tactile engagement.    

GUI Goes Gone

Screens require well planned out Graphical User Interfaces (GUI): where buttons need to be placed, logical grouping of controls and labels, etc..  All too often the GUI’s, even from professional developers or programmers, are unwieldy or down right confusing.  

Voice control provides the fulfillment of the promise first glimpsed in the science fiction of the 1950’s, (and possibly as part of ancient Chinese stories during the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD)).

In the early 1960’s Bell Labs began with the ‘Audrey’ system. The system, given the limitations of the technology, could only recognize numbers.  Shortly thereafter came IBM’s ‘Shoebox’ project – a remarkable late 1950’s machine which could recognize 16 words. Modern computing always teased at the possibility of leaping  from the dream concept in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey to the real world products of Alexa, Echo, Dot, Google Home, Siri .  Finally voice is here in a very real way.

While these interfaces have more mature voice recognition, responsive dialog capabilities and some predictive action algorithms – there is a  big gap yet to be crossed. When will understand everyone.  

Language Liabilities

Voice interfaces are still limited by their ability to decipher folks who do not speak with a deliberate paced diction. While a good portion of the world’s population can speak english to some degree, accented speech presents difficulty. People who speak with a regional speech pattern can soon be frustrated by the gadget repeatedly responding with – ‘I’m sorry, I did not understand the question’.  

It is not uncommon to see viral videos of young children talking to Alexa, exhibiting the glee of getting a response or commanding the lights to go on and off. So simple a kid can do it, right? Why can a three year old get immediate responses/actions and your friendly writer here barely utters one New York accented sentence before it all goes awry? Simplicity of speech.

Children, while full of squeals, mummers and asides, generally speak in a very precise manner. A three year old is still very deliberate in choosing the words and getting them to come out properly. What about the rest of us? Those who talk in the northeast staccato, or the slow southern drawl, or whose english is less than distinct?  

Obviously we need some way to learn how to communicate with our new overlords’ precursors, some example to help us learn a modus of speech. Who has the understanding and natural talent to teach us?  Are we just waiting for the prophet to come of age or yet to be born?

Proper…Propositioning of these…Portals!

Well, we need search no further – our professor of pronunciation is already among us.  

This savior has been with us for several generations, exhibiting his uncanny ability to talk to machines with a clarity and preciseness.

We speak, of course, of the one Captain James T. Kirk, as portrayed by William Shatner.

William Shatner.The man whose turn as the irascible captain of the USS Enterprise brought the idea of voice controlled computers to the masses. A dedicated officer of Starfleet whose punctuated delivery made it possible for non human forms to understand him.  

Shatner is famous not just for the roles he played but the way in which he uttered the lines. His delivery sharp, short with deliberate diction and that all important ‘Shatner Pause.’ It is clear from his years aboard the USS Enterprise that voice capable computers respect and indeed, love him.

As an experiment, it was decided to change the name of our in office voice controller to ‘Computer’ and play it clips of Shatner. We found his presentation of prose…pitches perfectly for propositioning these…portals!

I am A…Rocket…Man!
Learning to speak like this is not an enterprise to take on lightly and it is suggested that the imitation of  Star Trek episodes be held off for more advanced practitioners. To start, it is recommended that you begin with ‘singing’ along for an hour a day to Shatner’s version of “Rocket Man.” You and your voice controller will be forever thankful.

Voice command control is the future. With practice and care of vocal delivery you will soon be confidently in charge (and not the other way round).

I wonder how Kirk sounds in Icelandic?

 

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