RTOD 27FEB2008: Electronic Voices In Your Head

RTOD: Electronic Voices In Your Head


Ah, the wonders of modern technology.  Everything talks to you nowadays.  Your cell phone can tell you who is calling.  Home phones will tell you verbally how many messages you have.  Smoke detectors can tell you that you should calmly exit the building.  Computers can read to you a document you are looking at.  Even websites will tell you how to properly pronounce words and sentences in a foreign language!  Wow, that can be a lot of talking!


Today, I got to spend some time with a GPS machine.  My buddy bought it at www.woot.com for a great price, and brought it in.  It has a touch-screen, included extending stylus, multiple control buttons, it’s pretty nice.  I went with him on a demonstration trip of his GPS unit.  We programmed in the destination, and it pointed us on our way.  The screen was easy to read, and automatically zoomed in and out based on the best range of view.  We drove past the original turning point, and it recalculated the trip.  It even used big arrows to point on the roads the direction we were to head.  Cool!


However, this thing talks to you.  A lot.  Touch it, it tells you your next turn and how far ahead.  It repeated the turns several times, turn left in two thousand feet.  Turn left in five hundred feet.  Turn left.  Turn right.  Recalculating.  Turn right now!  Obviously, this is realistically a good thing, because you don’t have to keep watching the thing as you drive, so you reduce your risk of an accident by a lot.  However, listening to this thing for a ten minute drive only brought on laughter of its parodies.  And boy, were we having fun!


All I could come up with was the standard jokes of a conversationalist at first, joking about how it would ask how your day was and where would you like to go (which is the one thing it DOESN’T ask!).  It soon turned into GPS Nag Version, with the machine laughing at you for driving funny, and griping at your speeding, braking, and personality.  Slow down, don’t you realize I am a sensitive piece of electronics?  Where did you get your license from, a cereal box?  Can’t you get anywhere on time?  You turn like a maniac!  How many times do I have to tell you turn right before you listen?  Turn around!  I want to go back to my docking cradle!  The list goes ON AND ON! 


Later, we discovered that there is a danger to having a GPS system in your car.  It becomes a distraction to the driver who is still learning the machine.  Thoughts quickly turned to how sue-happy the modern American is, and having auto manufacturers have it set up where you could only make changes while the car is stopped.  Then, it turned to only changing when the car is in park!  And then, the REAL joke!  “Before entering location, please exit the vehicle and completely disconnect the transmission from the engine.  Once the car computer tells me that you have properly disconnected the transmission, we can talk!”  “Before choosing destination, please disconnect the battery from the car.  Caution, disconnecting the battery may cause electric shock or temporary loss of power!” 


So, now that we have GPSs that talk to you, and cars with voice recognition, how much longer before the car will try to have conversations with you?  Or, try to pull up news for you on the fly based on what you have said, or advertising from companies along your route?  As you drive near a McDonald’s, it will tell you about their juicy Big Mac, available now at the local McDonalds on the right!  Obviously, it might not be a horrible thing, because you could know how much something would cost before going in.  Imagine your car senses you are getting low on fuel, and the GPS detects a fueling station ahead, and displays a listing of the prices at that fueling station on a HUD on the left side of the windshield, along with possibly a small ad for something they carry.  It’s not too far off.  As long as it doesn’t become “full-screen” ads, which would fill your windshield!  Only time will tell how far it actually comes along! 

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