Most of us old-timers probably expected voice I/O to be a common part
of personal computing by now. But here we are in 2008, and I don't see
even early signs of voice emerging into the mainstream. Products like
Naturally Speaking have some popularity, but my sense is that they're
used far more for dictation than any sort of command and response
interface. Both Mac OS X and Windows Vista have built-in speech
recognition capability, but does anybody use them (or even know
So my question for the group is: why? Is it due to technical
shortcomings, like recognition accuracy and dealing with background
noise? Are there social issues, like not wanting to be overheard or
feeling silly talking to a machine?
Or is it that splicing a voice-based UI into current graphical
interfaces just doesn't give a satisfactory user experience?
This, to me, is the most intriguing possibility. Voice command today
reminds me of the earliest versions of mice for PCs, which generated
arrow keystrokes as you moved them around; although they were
ostensibly compatible with the existing applications, they just didn't
work well enough to justify using them. Could it be that an effective
voice-based UI requires a more basic integration into the OS and
applications? Perhaps we need an OS-defined structure for a spoken
command syntax and vocabulary rather than just expecting users to
speak menu items?
Why aren't we talking to our computers yet? Should we be?