Friday, January 22, 2016

Training the next generation to dictate

Recently, I've shared some thoughts on the current user experience of digital assistants like Siri and Cortana.  A couple years ago, I bemoaned the lack of a more direct voice-to-system channel in our modern consumer technology:

One of the reasons I'm so stuck on this is that I feel like we finally have the technology to make conversational computing a normal mode of interaction with our devices.  I've been surprised to see that so many people are carrying smart phones and yet very few "normals" are using voice input.

I doubt that many would disagree that mobile devices are not good for typing. And yet, much to my surprise, younger generations have turned to text messaging as a primary form of communication, defacing the english language to make it slightly less painful to type their messages on their tiny little devices.

Sure, there are many contexts in which a voice input channel doesn't make sense, but I would argue that much of the time it does. So, if dictation is a better, more efficient, input mechanism for the majority of users, in the majority of cases, why isn't it more common? One explanation for this is that dictation is hard.

When I'm driving and try to dictate an email, text message, or note on my phone, its always full of stutters and breaks. To do it properly, I need to think out my entire sentence before I verbalize it to my device. While typing, I find it much easier to finish the thought in the midst of entry. Its funny how different it feels to talk to your device than it does to talk to a person...even if that person is not in the same physical location.

My theory is that this is learned, societal behavior. Further, I suspect that if I started dictating at a very young age, that dictation process would feel much more natural. Has anyone done an experiment like that? I'm seriously considering teaching my daughters to get into the habit of talking to a device just to see...maybe some kind of diary app?
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