Monday, November 14, 2011

Siri-ous Conversation

Hi Tech Fans!

Today I am taking a ten minute break to tell you about Siri, my newest purchase.

Now, all of you may have her in your pockets at the moment, but I want you to think about her for longer than a minute.

Those who have her will probably be the first to tell you that dialect is still an issue. I am from the south and I can definitively say that she is on an 80/20 accuracy rate with me. I find that if I am not enunciating, I run into the same old 'Dragon Naturally Speaking' issues of old.

However, I have hope.

Siri is in the cloud and I am not the only one training her. She is an intelligent agent learning from hundreds of thousands of others. Like a child she takes in the corrections and modifies her behavior and learns to give better answers thanks to the Nuance server in the background. That being said, remember that you have to touch the cloud to use her, so do not go buy the iPhone 4s if you are not going to get signal from your phone or a wi-fi hotspot.

What I find most hopeful is that if Apple can work this out, their products would have an ADA upside for education. Being able to take speech to text into everything from email to apps means a great deal to the way teachers work with students with disabilities. We also know it helps those without them, too. Apple devices already have some voice options built in and can read text to you as well as display closed captioning on files that have been captioned. This is a far cry from a Kindle or other eReader. I have hope then, that in the future Siri will help us close that gap. But, who knows which direction the wind may blow.

Limitations? Of course, it is not the 25th century yet. If you have Siri, she won't work in a crowded room or a noisy space. So, her best place is in your car....without the kids. My kids constantly kill her ability to understand by leaping into the conversation.

Another note about the car. I have a Ford Fusion with Sync technology. Eerily enough, she sounds JUST like the voice on Microsoft's Synch. They should have auditioned a different actress. I get confused as to whether Siri or Synch is talking to me.
PS...if you don't have Synch on a vehicle, you need to try it.

I have been saying for a very long time that if the government wants ADA solved, they need to pour money into captioning systems for the schools that are uniform and trainable for dialects. I hope that maybe they might get their heads together to do this with Apple since Apple has pushed forward. No, I am not saying it has to be an Apple world, but if you find something that works, commit and make it the 'best' it can be to do the thing you need. If Dragon wants to lead the way..go Dragon!

Institutions have little money, but we have lots of labor force in students. Start a project HERE at Austin Peay State University. Put the money into a future we can share with other institutions. Don't spread out your grants to solve little issues, solve the big issue. You want websites compliant and podcasting to be captioned. Harness Siri, or harness anything that leaps us forward.

Computer navigation will never be all voice for those with sight, but we will use it too. Using Siri for a week has made it apparent to me that voice activation and navigation are a portion of the issue at hand. We still will need more tools to meet the government mandates, but let us start with the first step, then the next will be easier. Access begins with innovation.

Stepping off the soap box, I have to say, Siri IS cool. Anyone complaining usually is jealous. She is fairly quick compared to other voice activated phones. I also find she is pretty accurate once you say it in a voice she understands. I also realized I mumble. ***mmmff

I like that I can tell her to tell my husband to pick up milk without typing all that. I like that I can make my appointments without the fifteen clicks to set them up on ANY smart phone. I like that she knows if something is going to be an issue for me. That is what technology is supposed to do, enhance, not run your life.

I am sure I will have more to say as I get more comfortable with the new technology, but the phone is light, the screen is wonderful, and Siri is HELPFUL for a wife and mom of three boys who also works in technology, a fast paced field.

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