Tuesday, September 27, 2011


The Unofficial Apple Weblog posted a rumor yesterday speculating on a new voice interface (called "Assistant" in the post) that may be coming with the next iPhone.
We're told that you can speak to the Assistant in your normal tone and speed of voice; it's that accurate. Assistant is also integrated with Wolfram Alpha, so you could also ask your iPhone questions like "Convert 10.2 acres to hectares" or "What's the cube root of 924?" and get an immediate answer.
I have no idea if this is actually coming with the next Apple product, but I'm convinced that something like this is coming in the near future. And it sounds really, really cool. After all, what could be better than asking a question to the air and having your phone spit out the correct answer?

But as cool as this is, it's also worrying. When you don't have to put any effort into learning something, it doesn't stick with you. At the most basic level, this is the same problem as needing a calculator to figure out that 3 x 4 = 12. As human beings, we shouldn't need a technological crutch to navigate through basic aspects of life.

Having said that, you can still bet I'll be all over this feature, if and when it ships.

* * *

One other interesting bit from the article:
One more fascinating feature that is likely to be packed with privacy settings is "Find my Friends." With this feature, you could ask your phone "Where's Erica Sadun?" and (provided she's made her location information available to me) the iPhone would display her location.
Again, there's no way to know if this is real or not, but after the brouhaha about iPhone tracking earlier this year, Apple had better be very careful about how they present a feature like this. I think it would be fantastic to have a service that would let me know when friends are nearby ("enhanced serendipity", if you will) but it would be pretty easy to forget you had this enabled, or to forget who had access to your location. I've been publishing my general location for over a year now, but only a few people have had access to my pinpoint, real-time location. It's not something you would trust to just anyone.

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