Friday, June 24, 2011

That was quick.

With every new gizmo or convenience device in your life, there comes the moment when you have that "How did I ever do without this?" epiphany.

For instance, many years ago, not long after I had purchased my first car with remote door locks, I came walking home from the grocery store, arms full of bags. After schlepping up the stairs to the second floor, I found myself standing outside the apartment door and thumbing the Bimmer's key fob as though it would unlock my domicile.

Yesterday, I found myself out front of Locally Grown Gardens, looking at flats of vegetables and herbs, and I pulled the phone out of my pocket and asked it "Is marjoram a flowering herb?" with my voice and it served up the Wikipedia entry on marjoram.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that that may be the single most amazing thing I've ever done with a computing device in my life. LawDog has long referred to his computer as the "Magic Elf Box", which I've always gotten a chuckle out of, but yesterday was the first time I've found myself staring at the gizmo in my hand like an extra from The Gods Must Be Crazy with an airborne Coke bottle. This is nothing less than a Portable Magic Elf Box that fits in a shirt pocket...

30 comments:

perlhaqr said...

That's way more advanced than I had any idea that the magic elf boxes had gotten.

I've got a number of friends who have fancy pants i-droids or whatever, while I still have my "makes phone calls" phone, but I've only ever seen them looking stuff up by typing on a leeeeetle tiny keyboard.

What flavor of magic widget do you have?

Anonymous said...

The power to look up wiki pages is pale in comparison to the power of the force.

Tam said...

It's a low-end Droid phone; an LG Optimus.

The Virgin Mobile version has a Google search box with a voice input button right on the home screen to it's as easy as "Wake Up Phone, Touch Mic Button, Ask Question, Get Google Results." No typing required.

(And if you preface your voice query with "Call [Name In Directory]" or "Directions To...", it responds appropriately. That's just slick as dammit.)

Stuart the Viking said...

perlhaqr,

As far as I know, any of the relatively recent android or iphones will do the voice recognition bit. It works surprisingly well. There is just the microphone button to hit and wha-la, speak your question. The reason many people don't use it so much, or at least the reason I don't use it so much is that every damn time I hit that button EVERYONE around me has to start talking as loudly as they can and the phone doesn't get anything like what I am actually saying. I've even been known to shout "SHUT THE HELL UP!" to get everyone to be quiet for a sec so that I could talk to my phone. It turns out that people thought this was rude of me.... go figure.

s

BillyBobz said...

I'll second Stuart's comment. When I'm at the grocery store and suddenly want to look up the effective range of 303 British, it makes more sense to type it in than to alarm the people around me.

Boris da Bastid said...

I'm not going to lie, Tam. I too, am moderately amazed with my droid. I left 'murica in 2004 when I joined the Army and spent time in Germany and various sandy cities until 2010. The first thing I bought when I returned was one of these smartphone thingies, and I spent the first month having to charge it twice a day I was playing with it so much. For me, it's less a communication device and more that pocket-sized laptop I've always dreamed of owning.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Tam: You've made me realize that I need to use the voice input more often. It is pretty slick, and surprisingly accurate.

Anonymous said...

A general PSA.

On of the leading causes of cell phone death is falling into the toilet and drowning.

This is usually accomplished from the shirt pocket as people lean over to flush.

A second leading cause is sitting on the phone when it's in the back pocket.

Ok, now, do I have draw pictures?

og said...

When you are ankle deep in a machine, realize you need something, pull out the phone and surf to grainger for the item you need, email the office for a P.O., send the p.o. to Grainger and have the guy show up with what you need in less than an hour total, it's clear that this is how the technology was meant to be used.

Carteach0 said...

Thanks Tam. After reading of your adventures in flyingcarville, I just added the Google voice search thingie to my Droid home screen.

I expect to spend the next few weeks talking out load to my phone, and having people look at me like I was a freak.

Oh, wait. That's not really a change.

Anonymous said...

Can the droid's voice activation be done through a bluetooth earpiece?

Jeff the Baptist said...

Virgin Mobile should pay you for this advertising. I didn't know there was such a thing as a prepaid smartphone, especially that was so price competitive with contract options. Now I'll probably be buying one myself shortly.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

If screen space for widgets becomes an issue, you can always access the search app by hitting the hardware search button on the front of the phone. There's also (on the Optimus) a hardware "voice dial" button on the side, next to the shutter button. I think you can use that to search also if you say "search" or "google" first.

Another way to save screen space is to download "Folder Organizer". It lets you put folders on the home screens to organize and access your apps by category. There's a free version and a paid version.

Johnnyreb™ said...

Since receiving an iphone for Fathers day, my amazement at it's capabilities continues to grow. Now i'm gonna have to try out that voice-widget-thingy ...

Bubblehead Les. said...

Slowly but surely, I'm a getting there. Just got my first Kindle yesterday, and I'm realizing that I can get Free Ice Cream if I'm near a hotspot. Now if I only didn't have size 2x hands, and the buttons weren't so small...but hey, 2 Discworld Novels in my pocket as of this minute? Screw the Luddites.

Bob said...

"A keyboard. How quaint."

*grins*

Anonymous said...

Sheesh. I though adding the BlackBerry's Bluetooth hands-free option to my new (to me) truck was cool. Of course, it is, but...

Jon B.

Davidwhitewolf said...

Just wait till you tell your phone "defend me" and your personal drone drops the hammer on a bad guy from thirty feet up.

Mad Saint Jack said...

One of us...

Mad Saint Jack said...

Davidwhitewolf-

iAirStrike.

Rick C said...

If space on the homescreen becomes an issue, all Androids I'm aware of have 5-7 home screens: just flick the screen to the right or left, and you get another one! With AT&T, you have to remove the crappy supplied widgets that might take up an entire screen, but that gives you lots more icons.

By the way, in Android (probaly with the iphones, too, but I don't have one) the voice search works in lots of places, including, for example, google maps, youtube, etc.

Oh, and just about all hte major American cell companies have low-end Android phones now: The Optimus exists for Metro PCS, Sprint, T-Mobile, maybe others, and recently AT&T.

RevGreg said...

It sure beats the crap out of "training" devices to recognize your speech or, even more, defining commands for the device to recognize using phonetic assignments (I don't even remember what arcane program that was but it sure was AWESOME at the time!)

ExurbanKevin said...

My moment of "Whoa, dude, I'm living in the FUTURE!" came when friends of mine couldn't find the bar we were to meet in, so I sent them the map coordinates via text message on my iPhone.

I sent them the satellite navigation location via personal communicator, which then displayed in on a digital photo and gave them turn-by-turn directions where to go.

Dude.

Tam said...

RevGreg,

Yup, that's the thing that amazed me most. I mean, I tried it as a lark, expecting a response of the "Eat Up Martha" variety, but it didn't even ask me if I meant "margarine".

Brad said...

I think if my OG (original Droid) as part of my brain. A supplemental hard drive, if you will. Any time a question comes up, if there's an answer on the internet, I can find it. VERY cool for curious folks who crave knowledge.

Also, if I decide I need a stubby ball end 2.5mm hex wrench for work, I can order it on Amazon and have it the next day. No matter where I am.

BGMiller said...

You just need it to go "Bingley bingley beep" and constantly refer to you as "Insert Name Here" when it reminds you of appointments.


BGM

Stingray said...

I must have an oddball accent of some variety. Having (with eerily similar timing) taken the apparently exact same plunge, with a nearly-same phone, this of course piqued my curiosity. (Also please get out of my head and stop copying me by psychic means possibly hours before I do something myself. This could get embarassing.)

"Is Margorie flowering her" was not quite what I was looking for. Martha best still be on the lookout.

Tam said...

Stingray,

I tend to hyper-enunciate when talking into microphones, so there's that.

Gnarly Sheen said...

Further expanding on voice/sound recognition, there is "Shazam" on the Droid marketplace. Open the app and hold it where it can hear part of a song, and it will compare the sample to a database and tell you what the song is.

That was my "this is the FUTURE" moment. :D

aczarnowski said...

I admit the voice thing is slick. I don't use it much myself since I really try to not be "that guy" in public places ever since getting my first phone and zooming into my first conversation at volume=11 in public. Stupid learning curves.

Renewal comes up in a couple weeks. Looks like a couple Thunderbolts will hook us on the 4G goodness.