Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ironic advances in technology?

PANAMA CITY BEACH — We were in the car earlier this week when my wife started talking to her phone. Not talking to someone via her phone, but actually speaking to the device itself.

I’d seen her do this before. She speaks to her texting app rather than typing a text message. The phone converts her voice to text, but she then has to correct some of the words manually before hitting “send.”

I was, and am, amused and flummoxed by this. I somewhat facetiously asked her if it wouldn’t be simpler just to call the person she was voice-texting to. Save the phone a step. Save herself the time correcting the words. Use the phone as, I don’t know, a phone?

As usual, she put up with my snark for longer than I deserved.

But then I wondered if the recipient would respond by talking to her phone in order to send a text back. Why not send the recording of her voice? I asked her what was next, would phones let you talk to them, convert the words to text, send the text message and then read the words aloud to the recipient in a robot voice — or maybe using your original voice recording?

(In fact, something very similar is coming in the next generation of iPhones, I’m not surprised to learn.)

I thought advances in technology were supposed to make tasks easier? In my mind, I can see how this process of voice-to-text would allow illiterate people to send texts, which I suppose has some utility — but then who’s going to read the reply to them?

Yes, I know the idea behind voice-to-text is to allow hands-free texting so you can text while driving or cooking or whatever without having to type. But that’s not as funny. And besides, I would argue that texting already has rendered too many people illiterate. I mean, can you decode that gibberish? (lol, jk)

If you think about it for a minute, I’m sure you can think of ways technology has made life more complicated, or at least ironic.

For instance, I recently realized I use my home DVR so I can decide not to watch something later. It’s a delayed programming delivery and deleting platform.

The thing is, the DVR has a limited number of hours it will hold, and we have an unlimited number of TV series and movies we think we might want to watch if we ever have the time. That leads to something of a bottleneck, so I have taken to culling old programs from the DVR even if they haven’t been watched. If I’ve had it on there since November of last year and haven’t viewed it, yet, then I probably didn’t need to have recorded it.

On the other hand, I greatly enjoy Facetime. It’s like having my own little “Space: 1999” commlock communicator (the 1970s-era TV show used the handheld devices to open doors by remote control, keep track of the time, and talk to each other on tiny black-and-white video screens).

With Facetime, like Skype, you can see the person you’re talking to, show each other projects you’re working on or something crazy happening in your vicinity. My wife once Facetimed with our daughter, Jessica, during a concert, so she could see and hear her brother performing; her brother got the audience to say hello to Jessica.

If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is.

My phone also lets me listen to every song in my iTunes library in alphabetical order, which I’m sure must satisfy some programmer’s personal OCD.

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