2016 seems to be full of exciting new voice tech. There are a whole variety of personal voice assistants like Siri and Cortana. Smart Homes have gotten serious with incredible looking devices like Google Home and the Amazon Echo (both of which are voice controlled) and cars have gotten smarter to the point where ambient temperature, music and even navigation can be voice controlled (thanks to Dragon Drive, Google Now and more). It seems like an incredible new leap in voice tech is happening and it has huge implications for the way we do pretty much everything. But these amazing technologies didn’t come out of the blue; in fact, there are a whole bunch of sci-fi stories, books and films that predicted pretty much every voice trend we are witnessing.
In one of the greatest sci-fi novels ever written, by one of the greatest authors of all, we had one taste of the future of smart voice tech in our homes. Philip K Dick’s Ubik brings us a reality where all the basic components of a house interact through voice and cash. In this dystopian vision of smart homes, the protagonist is forced to pay his door as it loudly demands a 5-cent entrance fee. The toll door in this novel is also a fairly advanced artificial intelligence and is frequently described as stubborn and smug. And all the appliances share these basic characteristics – they are voice activated AIs that demand tolls from their resident. Ubik was written in 1969 and fairly accurately predicted the future of smart homes (minus the hilarious and stubborn attitudes and the constant demands for payment). This is way ahead of the first emergence of smart homes in the early 2000s.
There have been numerous references to voice assistants in science fiction for decades, but an interesting, albeit fairly recent emergence of the tech in sci was in the popular film Her. The film pushes beyond the next generation of voice assistants where they will be sentient and able to help us with our every need. Her (spoiler alert) shows us a world were personal assistants are so far advanced, that the humans that use them are able to fall in love with them. Falling in love or having a relationship with a disembodied voice or cold technology may seem pretty far-fetched, but there are already realistic looking bots out there that may develop to be the companions and love interests of the future.
While the future of sci-fi and voice tech looks more or less streamlined and straightforward (except of course, for some of what Philip K Dick has to say), the real world is beset with tech glitches and setup problems. And while smart home devices like Google Home have incredible potential, they are often a little tricky to get going with. Luckily there are some great blogs out there, like Joy of Android’s how to article on Google Home, that help users fix the trickiest of problems. If you are having trouble with voice commands and responses, with your touchpad, or even with your Google account, the article can give you some tips on how to fix these pesky problems and start fully leveraging smart home tech.
We are at the beginning of the new wave of voice-controlled tech and the future is certain to bring many marvelous new creations. Looking at sci-fi we can see some hints of what’s in store. As well as acting as our home devices and personal assistants, the voice-controlled devices of the future may be our companions and friends, and are certainly likely to be integrated across multiple environments and devices. Think of all the ship based AI intelligence like those on the various incarnations of the Enterprise in Star Trek. The computer here is completely voice controlled and while they still have what look like tablets and other handheld devices, almost everything can happen through conversational and even friendly exchanges with the ship’s computer. Andromeda takes this even further, bringing the ship to life both through voice and through an avatar that for all intents and purposes look like a young human woman. The ship here is much more than just a ship, and the avatar is one of the main characters in the show, striking up relationships with the flesh and blood humans. And these are just a few examples of how the future of voice might look.
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