Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Siri vs. Forget It! (1977)

Back in 1977, I was asked to write a short science fiction story with the general theme of 'memory' for a new computer magazine named ROM.  In it, I imagined my perfect computer assistant.  It was a wrist watch, with a tiny screen and a voice interface.  You can read the story here on my Henry's Stories online magazine.  It's short, in two parts, click the Next Part link down below the comments.

With all the news coverage of the Siri voice assistant on the new iPhone 4S, it occurs to me that there is a lot of common ground between the two devices.  The idea of a voice operated personal assistant device is hardly a new idea, especially in science fiction.  The very first thing Carlos does in the story is make a calendar event, and I bet Siri would do the same task with the same verbal command.  (Unfortunately, I can't justify a 4S just yet, so I can't try it out.)

There are plenty of differences.  In 1977 I couldn't quite imagine the always-connected world we live in, and that was actually part of the plot.  The wrist watch was also voice specific, more as a security feature than because of any limitation.  The voice recognition was also all in the device, rather than Siri's server-based method.

In truth, I want a merger.  I travel in remote areas, so I'd prefer a device-only voice system.  But Siri's 'personality' is better than the one I wrote.  Maybe a wrist watch would be more convenient than a hand-held, but I could wish for something waterproof that rode in my ear, or even embedded under the skin.  The screen output is nice, though, so I could live with either the 4S or wrist watch device.

Just something all-knowing, with infinite storage, that never misunderstands what I ask for.  That would do nicely.  Please.

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