Siri is bad for driving, and what that tells you about voice

I found this article unexpectedly interesting — it’s about how among several hands-free and eyes-free car systems, Siri is the most distracting and dangerous of all.

It’s interesting because it’s a testament to the state of voice control today.

All the big players are investing heavily in it — Apple with Siri, Google with Android Wear, Microsoft with Xbox One’s Kinect — but we are still far away from the future shown in the movie Her. One where we use voice to converse with an AI assistant who can organize our digital lives.

Motorola took another stab at this future with the Motorola Hint, which was met with dismal reviews. Principally because voice inputs are simply not robust enough:

For all the time I’ve spent with it, I can’t yet figure out why I’d want to keep it in my ear all day. It’s a very comfortable, mediocre-sounding Bluetooth headset, and comes in handy sometimes when I’m quickly sending a text and don’t want to dig out my phone, but neither voice control in general nor the Hint in particular is powerful enough to make the hands-free connection a permanent one.

Moto Hint

On the surface, voice seems like a seamless input method. That’s the theoretical potential. The reality today is that voice is limited, commands are still more specific than broad, and using voice to control technology isn’t natural. It’s something you still have to think about.

What’s the voice command for telling Android Wear to direct me to the nearest gas station? Is it

  • Find the nearest gas station?
  • Search the nearest gas station?

It’s neither. You have to say, “Navigate to the nearest gas station” for Google to show you directions on a map.

Is it any wonder then that something like Siri proved more distracting than traditional methods?

Voice is cognitive overload. Tapping buttons on a menu is still easier.

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