Siri? HAL? Anyone listening?

Like it or not, we’re living in the future we dreamed about when we were kids. Looking around, it’s not how I pictured it. Movies tricked me into believing that it was either going to be a colorful utopia or a bleak dystopia. Nothing really prepared me for this. Imagine this scenario occurring in the early 1980s:

Studio Executive: All right, you have my undivided attention. Dazzle me!

Screenwriter: Okay, so, picture this. Computers are everywhere. There are touchscreens. People carry them…in their pockets!

Studio Executive: Now we’re getting somewhere! I can get behind this! So, what, do people have these computers in order to monitor the robot hordes planning to take over the world?

Screenwriter: No, in fact, the world looks just as it does today, except the hairstyles aren’t feathered.

Studio Executive: …get out of my office.

Yeah, the “future” has been kind of a letdown so far. We don’t have mass-produced flying cars, which is a good thing, I suppose. There are too many jackasses driving around anyway; imagine if they were licensed to fly? And sadly, I’m still waiting for my hoverboard. I guess I can still dream about a future where we will be able to float a foot above the ground and propel ourselves around by pushing the air with our feet, but by then I’ll need a board big enough for not just me but my walker.

Well, unless someone comes up with hoverwalkers by then. But I digress.

There are some benefits to living in our “present future.” We have the luxury of the time-suck called the Internet. Global information at our fingertips and funny cat videos on demand. A colossal time-suck, but it would be difficult to live life without it. And the electronic devices keep getting better and better. They haven’t gotten great, though.

Take the iPhone. I was a skeptic at first. I didn’t text all that much. I didn’t feel like I needed the aforementioned time-suck of the Internet at my beck and call. I had a useful cell phone that allowed me to place calls during emergencies, and that’s all I needed. Plus, I was afraid of getting pulled into the Cult of Apple. My protective wall eventually eroded by the 4th iPhone generation, though. It turned out to be a pretty useful device, one that I spend entirely too much time on.

Of course, imagine my surprise (not surprised) when a new version came out the next year. The iPhone 4S, now with Siri. Siri! The new personal assistant from Apple! You can ask her things and she’ll respond with answers. She’ll also take notes and remind you of activities you have planned. Siri seems cool, but there is something about Siri that bugs the ever living shit out of me: it’s voice controlled without entirely being controlled by the voice.

What the hell?! We’ve had so many technical innovations in the past decade and no one can come up with a way for things to remain in a standby state so you can wake them up with your voice. TRUE voice control. Why must I press a button to use a voice-controlled system like Siri? It almost defeats the purpose of it. Enjoy the benefits of a hands-free device by using your hands! What kind of bullshit is that?

Like Elijah Wood’s friend said in Back to the Future II, “You mean you have to use your hands? That’s like a baby’s toy.”

Apple’s not the only guilt party here. Microsoft has been touting its Kinect system for while now, and it seems intriguing to me, but why should I buy it? Well, voice control obviously. I can control Netflix with my voice! “Xbox, play movie. Xbox, pause. Xbox, main menu.” Sounds awesome, except it’s missing the most important thing:

“Xbox, on.”

I guess we still have to wait for all these smarty-pants engineers to fix this glaring oversight. Some future, huh?

This guest post was written by Dennis. He would have dictated it, but…well, did you read the post?

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

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