Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Importance of Voice Commands for Smartphones

I've never really appreciated voice commands for mobile devices like smartphones until recently when I took up the bike to save the environment and some gas money. Okay, mostly gas money. But I have cut down on carbon emission to the tune of $28.77 in gas saved since taking up biking again.

This is what it's about. It's about riding the bike and having some sense control over the phone. I have a Motorola bluetooth headset that I'm fine with it for the most part. With my iPhone or just about any other Bluetooth phones, you already know that I can answer or end calls. With my old Sony phone, there was a not so great option for voice dialing. The ability to issues call commands, no matter how one decides if it is a necessary feature, is not available on my iPhone or the new iPhone 3G. I had always thought it unnecessary until now.

Then again, the question is, should one even try to navigate the treacherous roads of Los Angeles on a moving vehicle while talking? Suffice, to say, I'm going to be extra careful when California's hands-free law goes into effect on July 1.

But whether you're biking or driving, having a smart phone that responds commands beyond just calling or ending calls would be great. Say you're on your way to work and you want to know what kind of day you're going to have, it would be cool to have the smartphone read your days schedule for you. Even better, the ability make dictations for notes or e-mails can save a lot of time. After all, I'm sure you've seen people try to text or e-mail while driving.

More than that, it would be nice to be able to navigate the Internet through speech and have the smartphone read you stock prices or the day's headlines.

I have no clue how advanced voice-command are these days. It's been a while since I've owned anything that takes vocal input. Regardless, here's a wish list of voice features for the not-too-distant-future smartphones I love to see in the next Blackberry, gPhone, or anyone else who's willing to go a step further than anyone else.

  • voice dialing. It is the basic must have for all phones.
  • checking calendar events, to do lists and read back events within your specified time period.
  • ability receive command to check e-mails and tell speaker who the sender is, subject, and possibly body of the e-mail. You can also issue replies or ability to forward e-mails.
  • GPS commands. While riding, I was looking for a Jamba Juice. Be nice to be able to find the closest one and be directed there. Nice to able to request traffic conditions
  • ability to do dictations. I suppose if e-mail is possible, dictation will be as well.
  • rudimentary Internet access via voice - stock quotes, weather, RSS feeds all read to you depending on what you ask your smartphone to do.
  • car mode - let callers know you are driving/biking so they don't call like fifty thousand times if you don't feel like answering. I know people who answer phones while they are driving because they felt it was rude to ignore calls.

Note that the fatures I've listed are not Star Trek-like features. I dare not ask . But something more than just asking the smartphone to call voicemail is not asking too much. Perhaps some of the features I've asked for are already available in some fashion or another but it's not easy to use.

Given the depth of the OS smart phones use and the processing power, everything I've requested is possible. I just takes an effort on the part of a giant like Google or Nokia to make it happen.

By the way, there is a distinction in the CA law for drivers over 18 and minors (maturity is not taken into account). Drivers 18 and over will be allowed to use a hand-free device like a Bluetooth headset. For those under 18, stow away that phone. CA will be just the 5th state in the Union to adopt such law.

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