She may not be Hal, the Starship Enterprise or even Wall-E, but Apple’s voice-activated assistant Siri is proof that your voice is the next killer app.
In the same way that the graphical user interface and touch screen have revolutionized the way we interact with our computers, voice is now poised to change the way we interact with our Internet-connected devices.
Voice recognition and voice-activated commands are, as any phone tree makes clear, nothing new. This is precisely why Siri was a side-note during the official launch of the iPhone 4S and largely greeted by consumers as a curiosity. Besides, how sophisticated was Siri, anyway, if Android developers were able to hack together a Siri clone - "Iris" - in a matter of hours? Siri’s technology wasn’t even designed and built in Cupertino. Most of the technology that went into Siri for the iPhone 4S came as a result of a $200 million acquisition made last year.
But don’t let any of this distract you from this core fact: Siri is a large, disruptive force, transforming a wide range of industries.
Until a few weeks ago, Google’s Eric Schmidt didn’t even have Siri on his radar. Now, he’s delivering Congressional testimony to the effect that Siri could make Google's search technology obsolete — at least for mobile devices. Meanwhile, free, open platforms like Zypr which offer to bring Siri-like features to the masses, are looking for developers to embrace voice as a new paradigm for the user experience. This means that Google and its competitors must confront a hard lesson: The algorithm is no longer king, the interface is.
The disruption doesn’t end with the technology sector. Consider the financial payments space. Square, the hot tech start-up founded by Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, just unveiled a new iteration of its Card Case technology that makes it possible for users to pay for items at certain retail destinations just by saying their name aloud at checkout. “Try it! It feels like magic,” Dorsey tweeted out to his followers. Herein lies the revolution — if your voice can activate a financial transaction, it’s the beginning of the end for paying with plastic.
What about cars? What if the new selling characteristic for cars becomes the ability to interact with the vehicle using your own voice? What seemed revolutionary at the time with GM's OnStar nearly 15 years ago has evolved. Ford Sync technology now makes the “connected car” possible. Use your voice to get driving directions, play music, make phone calls, get weather reports and have text messages read aloud to you.
Siri may represent the next stage in consumer-facing artificial intelligence, but even Apple admits that it’s still in beta. And her unscheduled outage certainly didn’t help plans to market Siri to an even wider audience. Not only that, Siri still has problems with understanding certain names and sometimes delivers up quirky responses to fairly mundane questions. But her impact should not be dismissed. After all, the sound of your own voice has always been magic, Siri is merely a step — and a potentially big one — in transitioning that magic into the digital space.
Read more news and ideas on Innovations: