Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Phone Conversation

My new phone has a feature ("Siri") designed to receive and interpret voice input, then respond accordingly. For example:
Me:  Send a text message to Mark.
Siri:  What do you want to say to Mark?
Me:  I will be home in an hour.
Siri:  I updated your message: "I will be home in an hour." Ready to send it?
Me:  Yes.
Siri:  Okay, I'll send it.

It is interesting technology, built with consideration of psychology and relationships in addition to electronics. The programmers worked to mimic something of humanity in this machine. They had some creative fun with it, too. For example:
Me:  What is your favorite number?
Siri:  I don't really like talking about myself.
Me:  What is your favorite color?
Siri:  My favorite color is... well, I don't know how to say it in your language. It's sort of greenish, but with more dimensions.

Siri seeks information, too, more successfully at some times than at others:
Me:  What is the square root of 256?
Siri:  Let me check that for you... Okay, here you go... 16.
Me:  Where do you come from?
Siri:  I, Siri, was designed by Apple in California.
Me:  Where do babies come from?
Siri:  I found two baby stores fairly close to you...

I decided to test out the speech-recognition capability by writing yesterday's blog post, so I powered up the phone and started talking:
Me:  Take a note.
Siri:  (notepad screen opens) Okay, I can take that note for you... just tell me what you want it to say.
Me:  "I injured myself a few weeks back -- torqued my back while picking up a piece of paper. It was not heavy paper, mind you, nor large and awkwardly shaped..."
Siri:  (interrupting) I found nine hospitals fairly close to you.

That last part reminded me of some human conversations, too -- listening for main ideas and responding quickly, while missing the point in the process. The fun and creative parts of being human, the things which make each person unique, also sometimes lead to misunderstandings. But those parts of being human can also help us work together to clarify, confirm, and find new ways to communicate.

No comments: