So you probably heard about the new iPhone by now. And perhaps you are one of the many people that said something along the lines “Meh, so it’s just the iPhone 4 with upgraded hardware and that gimmicky feature which allows you to talk to your phone.” You probably are failing to see the point because it’s too big.
Finally: the first PDA
Remember those PDA days? Do you also remember what PDA stands for? It stands for Personal Digital Assistant.
Quick, give me a job description for a regular, non-digital personal assistant! You say a personal assistant is somebody that does stuff for you? Stuff you don’t care for doing but has to be dealt with? Somebody that does stuff for you? Somebody you can tell to do stuff for you?
I hope by now you can see where I’m going with this. The PDA was supposed to be you digital assistant that takes care of stuff for you. Which never really was the case. PDAs where more of a gimmicky calendar. They never really did stuff for you. But you can tell the new iPhone to send an SMS to your wife to let her know you’ll be running late.
Sure this isn’t really super exciting. Yet. This assitant’s abilities are still quite limited and still Apple put it out there. You know what that means right? Other people will copy, steal, improve.
Enabling the disabled
There are people that are forgotten most of the time by us computer people. People that have bodily disadvantages which make it really hard to enjoy living in tech-candy-land. Imagine you have no hands. Now try to use a reasonably recent cellphone. Chances are you’ll encounter slight problems there.
Believe it or not but there are quite a few people that really do struggle with the way technology is headed. Everything gets smaller. All the buttons are going away which makes it really hard to do stuff with touch panels if you are blind. And technology is moving so fast people can’t or don’t care to provide the benefits to people with disabilities.
What most people can do however is communicate. Most of us by talking and most of those who have problems with that do communicate with their hands. You can work your smartphone by hand already — actually thats the default. But now you can control your pocket computer (and that’s what smartphones are really) with your voice alone.
Where is your computer?
Siri might be quite nice on a smartphone but imagine what this stuff could do on a real computer. And I don’t even talk about your run-of-the-mill home PC. I’m talking about one of those supercomputer cloud things. Your data lives on the cloud already doesn’t it? Why not let it be joined by your new digital personal assistant?
There’s your new device agnostic way to easily access all your data. Why search through the hundreds of music files for something that suits the mood if you can let your computer do that for you? Why deal with getting an appointment with the vet if you can let your PDA handle that?
And as I said it’s device agnostic. All you really need is a way to transfer voice. So a humble phone line will suffice. Imagine the things that would be possible. A decent AI thing with access to all your personal data. An amazing thought — and a scary one, too.
This is right from Star Trek
Remember when James T. Kirk and later Jean-Luc Picard said things like "Computer, cross-reference all occurrences of Hercules in ancient greek texts with modern art.”? Now replace the word ‘computer’ with ‘Siri’. Replace ‘cross-reference’ with ‘search Google’. Catch my drift?
This Siri stuff was Science-Fiction a few years ago. Technology that was so far out that it belonged in the year 2200. You may have to consult your calendar on this, but this kind of technology is early by about 200 years. And if you still don’t see it: This stuff is dang pretty amazing. First it was the Wii, then it was the Xbox Kinect and now this. Imagine what the people that came up with that stuff can do if we give them a few years to combine those things and work out the kinks.
Oh, and if you think this is all delusional crazy talk, no problem at all. Just tell your phone to send me a note to let me know.
Discussion at Hacker News