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Google’s Nexus One and Voice Commands

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My relationship with stuff is changing.

I look forward to the promise of voice commands on every field in my smart phone, which is noteworthy in the Nexus One. I’ve just discovered that my AT&T Tilt responds to voice commands. Sorta. It’s true there is a feature that allows me to talk at the phone. I can get it to recognize most of my family’s names, though my son’s name always starts a Latin Jazz tune from the Columbian band Sidestepper (preloaded on my phone). Annoying. Does my phone purposefully misunderstand me? Even when I use my best clipped public speaker voice, my “Call Mike Flannigan” never results in anything but contact information for Mark Whalen. I may say “New Appointment” and, well, nothing happens. I can lower my voice. I can slow my voice. I can speak closer to the microphone. But…do I need to work on persuading my telephone to do my bidding?

Most of our rhetorical situations involve people. Usually a speaker and an audience. As a copywriter, I’m most often thinking about persuading some target audience with a written medium—but you see the point: people persuading people. Aristotle wrote about the elements of persuasion and talked about using pathos (emotion), ethos (character) and logos (logic) to get attention (and buy-in). All of these are available when we interact with fellow humans. But which of these is needed for telling my telephone what to do? My phone can’t judge my character (or…can it?). I know it relies on logic, especially when I tell my Tilt to do things it was never programmed to do. But pathos…. Do I need to speak kindly to my telephone? What kind of relationship am I about to have with my telephone?

My wife travelled with a friend not too long ago. The friend called her son using a voice command. Though weaving through traffic at highway speeds, she spoke his name in a low, calm, soothing way. She spoke slowly and got through with her practiced recitation. She knew exactly what her phone would respond to. And that’s what she gave it. Once connected, she went back to her higher, quick-moving manner (which her son knew all too well) and persuaded him of something in short order.

We’ll adjust to new technology. We’ll learn to use voice commands to accomplish stuff. But I am starting to notice the relationships I have with non-human stuff: my phone. My computer. The lamp in my office. Is there a limit to the number of relationships I can have? Do my relationships with stuff crowd out my relationships with people?

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Written by kirkistan

January 7, 2010 at 3:28 pm

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