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Buy for $27.99
A New York Times Magazine writer explores the Next Big Thing in tech - the impending revolution in voice recognition - and shows how it will upend Silicon Valley and transform how we use computers, the Web, and much more.
Every decade or so brings a seismic shift in how people interact with tech, from the PC to the internet to the smartphone. James Vlahos shows that we are on the cusp of the next shift: to voice computing. Siri and Alexa are early forms of this technology, but the day is coming when we'll talk as fluently with our phones, appliances, cars, etc. as we do with any human.
Vlahos explains the enormous AI challenges that voice computing presents, and unpacks its vast economic, cultural, and psychological impact. He reveals how Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and other titans are competing fiercely to create the new voice-driven interfaces. Amazon has devoted an entire secret building to their efforts, and other companies are making similarly huge plays.
Vlahos doesn't shy away from the troubling questions that voice computing raises. Will people become emotionally dependent on lifelike computers? Will we confide in them in ways that further erode our privacy? Will they deepen our addiction to all things digital? We are on the verge of a transformation as big as the iPhone. Talk to Me will help us get ready.
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- Charlotte A. Hu
glimpse of future & it's warmer than Starship
He details the history of a broad range of technologies, many of which, I was completely unaware of and how the tech industry has been trying for decades to create Alexa or something like the Starship Enterprise.
Among the most interesting stories related to the origin of Siri, which was acquired by Steve Jobs after calling the team that created Siri 36 consecutive days in a row. Then, on the day the team officially launched Siri, Steve Jobs passed away. They received reports Steve was watching the launch on TV. The reason this was critical is because Steve had personally promised the Siri team that it would roll out the same way the iPhone did with Apple only skills initially and then open to all developers to create additional skills. In the wake of Jobs’ passing, this detail was lost. Apple refused to support the plan. The founders eventually got disenchanted and left the company. Then a series of directors left Siri without sufficient follow on development.
James further notes that because Siri was first out, it got the most criticism for not being the Starship Enterprise when it was first launched.
He notes that Alexa was a childhood dream of Jeff Bezos, and his commitment and obsession with the technology is noteworthy. One of the greatest advantages Alexa has is the Alexa conversation competitions. They give giant checks to different teams, mostly from universities whose bots are deployed on Alexa and users rate them at the end of the chat. The top 3 are selected by user ranking and one selected by technicians based on complexity and impressive accomplishment. The author’s observation is, that the best benefit is the 10s of thousands of conversations users have with the various bots, which is all on Amazon’s system and gives them a data set of natural human interactions with those specific bots.
The author says that Cortana is the most complex and complete digital assistant that has been developed so far. I haven’t given Cortana much consideration, though because it’s not portable.
He talks about the Google Home Assistant, but notes that they didn't want to hype too much and overall there's nothing really memorable about the origin story.
The author devotes considerable time to the specific technologies that support the voice user interface capabilities, including the computing replication of neural networks, computer learning and Artificial Intelligence.
He also devotes a chapter to mythology and historical examples of humanity’s fascination with an all knowing guide. I found this chapter uninteresting and skipped it.
The author goes into deep details on how children’s toys have been developed to talk with and respond to children and notes that these programs have been more successful in part because the kids seem less skeptical and judgmental than adults.
In chapter 8, the chapter on computers as friends, James pulls from a book by Sherry Turkle, an alarmist, who wrote: Alone Together
Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. I read Sherry’s book that threatens how children will lose social skills when they become too deeply emotionally engaged with machines. As it happens Isaac Asimov uses a physically romantic relationship in one of his many robotic books to stress the rules of robotics. The robot realizes he is actually harming his human companion because she’s emotionally stressed about being romantic with a machine. There’s also a romantic interlude with Data. I find the entire topic to be scifi and absurd. Sherry has no credibility with me because her logic was flawed.
Talk to me goes into a deep dive explaining how technology industry is working on programs that are emotionally intelligent and quotes one expert that in the future, we’ll expect bots to read our emotions. his book really gives a glimpse into our future and it's much warmer and more engaging than "Computer" on the Starship Enterprise.
2 people found this helpful
- Phillip McAbee
Long winded but excellent information!
Long winded but excellent information, but you gotta wait for it! Interesting read on the state of NLP.
- J. M. Wilson
Fascinating and informative, I loved it.
I really enjoyed this entertaining look at one of the most fascinating areas of development in our society. I now feel I understand where voice computing came from and where it’s going.
An amazing story about our relationship to AI
love this book!! I recommend this book to anyone passionate about voice technology. Well done!
1 person found this helpful