Nov 22 2010

iPhone Features I Want to See

With today’s release of iOS 4.2, i would like to comment on a few basic features that are missing from the iPhone experience.

Voice text entry. Anywhere there is a text entry field, I should have the option to press a microphone icon to enter text via voice. I think this feature could actually save lives, and lots of dollars’ worth of car repairs, for people who just can’t seem to stop texting while driving*, even though it’s illegal in many states now. It seems silly to me that iPhones already have voice recognition for spoken commands (like calling someone, playing a certain song, etc.), but not for general text entry. This would be useful for other things too, like getting directions while you’re already on the road — I actually use Bing’s navigation app sometimes, specifically because I can search and enter addresses via my voice.

Text to speech. Likewise, I would like built-in functionality to have text messages, or other simple things (like emails), read to me. Not necessarily web pages or anything complex like that, though — I know that would be nearly impossible to do well for anything other than very simple web pages.

If this were Android, there could be an app to do both of these things, but apps don’t have access to text messages on the iPhone. Well, actually Android already has voice transcription for most places where you can enter text, from what I’ve seen. Maybe I should install Android on my iPhone. However, come to think of it, the Google Voice app could fairly easily add both of these things (for text messages), if Google wanted.

Better photo management/organization. I would also like the ability to save pictures to something other than the default album, and the ability to move items between albums. I’m not sure why this wasn’t possible from the initial version of the iPhone.

I fully expect all three of these things to be implemented by Apple… eventually. Sooner rather than later would be nice, though. And the speech-to-text feature may indeed be sooner, since there are rumors that Apple recently purchased Nuance, the makers of the voice recognition software Dragon Naturally Speaking (and also the makers of a free voice recognition app for the iPhone).

* Yes, I realize this is still distracted driving, which is also very dangerous, but it’s not quite so dangerous as actually taking your eyes off the road for a few seconds at a time.

Mar 14 2008

Human Encyclopedia

I was just thinking today, that often when I’m talking online and someone mentions something that I’ve never heard of, I just quickly Google it. Unfortunately, you can’t do this in face to face conversations. But… wouldn’t it be great if you could

Wearable Brain ScannerSo I started thinking about what it would take to do that. The technology for it definitely isn’t there yet, but it’s getting surprisingly close. Here’s how it would work. As you converse, the system is constantly listening in with speech recognition software, as well as scanning your brain. The software running in the background is also constantly filtering for items of interest, separating out keywords from the conversation.

So let’s say someone mentions Plato’s allegory of the cave in conversation, saying how citizens here are seeing a shadow of what war really is. You’ve heard of the allegory of the cave, but you aren’t really familiar with it. So you have an, “I wish I knew what that was,” moment. The brain scanner detects this. The software looks for the most recent keywords, gets “allegory of the cave.” It has a built-in Wikipedia-like database, and brings up a nutshell synopsis of the allegory of the cave onto your contact lens HUD. Now you seem erudite.

ASA SubvocalizerOf course, this could be implemented in a simpler way, without the brain scanner and contextual speech recognition, too. My friend Grem suggested a subvocalizer — maybe you just subvocalize, “look up allegory of the cave,” and it does so. That would also prevent false positives, so you’d only get displays of things you specifically request.

And since the entirety of Wikipedia fits into 2 GB, you wouldn’t even have to have an Internet connection. So really, this technology is all almost ready. The main thing would be the contact-lens HUD, which is still in early development.

Jun 17 2007

Master Rogers’ Neighborhood

I had another great idea recently. I was going to keep it to myself, but a few friends told me that I should share things such as this with the world. So, I present you my idea:

Master Rogers’ Neighborhood

This show will be like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, except… not. Master Rogers enters the scene, walking down creaky stairs into a faintly lit dungeon. He’s wearing a leather mask, one of those studded strappy Dom harnesses, a thick belt with floggers and other toys attached,  a leather thong, and a pair of spiked boots. He sits on one sub who is crouched over on elbows and knees, puts his boot onto another which is lying flat on the floor, and unlaces boots. Then unzips the mask, puts it on a spike on the wall, stands (on sub #2), and says, “Good evening, subbies. Today, we’re going to learn about electro-torture. Can you say ‘violet wand’? I thought that you could.”

Seriously, someone should make this show. You know you would watch it.