Next big step will be voice recognition
Last time around, we talked about the seeming lack of progress in information technology over the past decade. Really, we haven't seen anything truly innovative since the popularization of the world wide Web about 10 years ago.
At the height of the dot-com boom, everyone was looking for the next "killer app," or that piece of software that revolutionizes society or industry. The fact of the matter is that the last killer app was e-mail over the web.
So what is the future of computing?
Well, we see some of it now, in devices that most folks don't think of as computers. Handheld devices such as Blackberrys, Treos, Sidekicks and the like are really small computers that just so happen to have cell-phone capabilities built in. Sure, the computing power of such devices is relatively weak at the moment. But as we talked about last time, if Moore's Law continues, the processing capabilities of handhelds will double every couple of years. In 10 years, that's pretty juicy.
We'd also expect these devices to get smaller and smaller, so much so that they may no longer be known as "handhelds." The speed at which they communicate will get faster and faster, approaching, if not exceeding the bandwidth of today's broadband Internet connections.
Today, the biggest problem with handheld devices is that they're difficult to manipulate. Sure, some people can thumb those things to death, but in general, most folks find it much more difficult to use than a standard keyboard and mouse.
So what's the answer?
Devices that understand the spoken word.
So far, such devices are very rudimentary, but we expect voice-recognition capabilities to improve at a greater rate. There just hasn't been much demand for voice-powered computers. Most folks can run desktop and laptop computers just fine with a decent-size keyboard and mouse. But a small computer can't be run effectively that way. It requires something new. We believe that the handheld will be the catalyst for a robust, voice-based interface.
All manner of software will be run via voice. It's not difficult to imagine using your handheld to get directions, research a topic, make reservations for dinner or buy tickets to a game. Documents can be created much like dictation, in either text or audio formats.
Text-based e-mail will basically cease to exist, everything turn into voice-based messaging. This will solve one of the biggest problems of e-mail today. That is, in current e-mail, it is often difficult to identify the mood of the sender. Is it lighthearted and humorous, or is it meant to be taken seriously? With voice-based e-mail, it will be much easier to decipher the nature of the message.
Of course, we'll definitely need one key feature on our miniature voice-activated computers: an off switch.
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. Call him at 944-8742 or e-mail email@example.com