"Ok, Glass -- take a picture!"
"Xbox, what's on HBO?"
"Siri, play Angry Birds."
During the reveal of the Xbox One, I was struck by just how many voice commands Microsoft programmed into the device. Kinect brought a rudimentary set of commands to the gaming console, but now everything from opening movies to launching apps can be done via voice. "Xbox, Live TV" may be my new favorite phrase in the living room.
Microsoft's not the only one who's betting big on voice commands. The vast majority of Google Glass's value proposition comes from its (mostly) fluid voice commands. While I still can't scroll through photos with voice commands, not having to touch a camera to take a picture is a game changer.
And let's not forget Google's big bet on voice search on the desktop. Chrome users can simply say, "Ok, Google", and the world of keyboardless search is available. Its ability to process natural language wowed the audience at Google I/O. "Show me things to do in London" is just the beginning of Google's plan. And because it's built into search, Glass has the same capabilities.
Finally, there's Apple's Siri, which has underwhelmed but I suspect will get a major update at WWDC. Siri already understands basic commands and can help you set alarms, open apps and tweet directly from the phone. Its voice recognition technology needs some work, especially when it comes to natural language, but with Microsoft and Google making major announcements in this are in the last few weeks, I suspect a fire is being lit under the asses of the Siri team.
Will consumers bite?
Voice command technology has been around for decades, but it has always been clunky and far less accurate than typing on a keyboard. But thanks to Google, Apple, Microsoft, Nuance and a few other tech giants, voice recognition has reached a place where it's consumer ready.
Natural language recognition has taken major leaps as well. Who would've thought that you could carry a conversation with your glasses a decade ago? But that possibility is here now, and it is going to change the way we interact with technology.
How consumers will react to this wave of new voice technology remains to be seen. We, as a society, are used to interacting with our technology through a mouse and a keyboard, and yelling out voice commands in a restaurant simply isn't proper etiquette.
But I've noticed that I'll instinctively whisper to my Google Glass, and that it'll actually pick up my voice. I've also found that people are more accepting of my use of voice commands because I am wearing Glass and testing it out. Will we as a society be more accepting of voice recognition in general once Glass and other voice-heavy devices become more widely available?
I'm not certain. Maybe we'll all think Glass users are jackasses and it'll go the way of the Segway. But I do know this: 2013 is a pivotal year for voice recognition and voice commands.