AT&T sees iPhone/voice controlled world

Mazin Gilbert of AT&T shows off research project

That’s Mazin Gilbert of AT&T showing off a research project to John Biggs, who runs CrunchGear, one of the best blogs that cover consumer electronics. You’ll notice the research project is running on Gilbert’s iPhone.

ComputerWorld wrote up the event
and you’ll see that iPhones played a key role in a lot what was demonstrated.

There CTO John Donovan showed me around, and in between a cool lab project that uses Second Life I kept noticing a trend. I visited the living room of the future (that’s what I called it) and they showed me a remote control that I could talk to “turn on CNN” and it did. But then they said “and you can do the same thing with your iPhone.”

Next to that was a cool search engine. “You can use your iPhone to find pizza.” And it worked. I want that!

Across the room was an online shopping service. Yes, you guessed it, you could use your iPhone to look up lots of things about the products you were thinking of buying.

Now, I’m being a bit over the top. It wasn’t all about the iPhone. Lots of stuff about videoconferencing and telehealth technologies too.

But I kept coming back to the iPhone-based world. It’s one that resonates with me.

Now, I think it’d be pretty weird for most people to talk to their iPhone to switch channels on their TV, but I could see a world where I could get rid of all my remote controls and that I could completely control via voice.

“Switch to ESPN.”

The demos they showed me worked pretty well. The living room scenario has a lot of edges that the engineers haven’t thought about yet. You can’t turn up the volume yet, for instance, because the prototype was actually a set top box that voice could control.

“Record ESPN.”

But think about the kind of world we’ll have when more and more of our services are available to be controlled by our voice.

“Turn off stove.”

To have such a world we’ll need devices that have been “IP-ized.” That way a voice controller could understand your voice (that part is getting very close to being done) and send your commands over via a, say, REST interface to the device.

That is further off. I know Dave Winer has had a Denon receiver for quite a while that’s had a Web server embedded inside of it (if you knew the IP address of Dave’s receiver and knew his password, you could turn on and off his receiver from anywhere in the world).

“Make it warmer in here.”

Imagining such a world where everything is controllable via voice. It’s an interesting idea, but the industry has a long way to go, even to just “IP-ize” all the consumer electronics hooked up to my TV.

That’s why the one thing I think you’ll see out of the research projects we were shown on Monday is a new search engine that uses data that AT&T has access to. An iPhone-based Yellow Pages.

“Order a pizza please.”

Oh, well, I’ll take my pizza, even if I won’t be able to control my TV anytime soon.

18 thoughts on “AT&T sees iPhone/voice controlled world

  1. What if I’m watching TV with a bunch of friends while having a conversation? Is the TV going to be suddenly changing to ESPN because I’m talking about the game last week?

    I think the best method is to have a wireless voice remote that’s just a microphone and a push-to-talk button, that way you don’t inadvertently issue a voice command (it also solves the “shouting match” problem)

  2. What if I’m watching TV with a bunch of friends while having a conversation? Is the TV going to be suddenly changing to ESPN because I’m talking about the game last week?

    I think the best method is to have a wireless voice remote that’s just a microphone and a push-to-talk button, that way you don’t inadvertently issue a voice command (it also solves the “shouting match” problem)

  3. I would be OK if it would be ANYTHING but the iPhone… Android, Windows Mobile, S60 – anything but the horrible interface of the Apple…

  4. I would be OK if it would be ANYTHING but the iPhone… Android, Windows Mobile, S60 – anything but the horrible interface of the Apple…

  5. Voice enabled iphones controlling other devices could be huge time savers. I actually don’t understand why voice control is not more used today. Back in 2004, I was writing computer training manuals with ibm viavoice and dragon naturally speaking. Very reliable programs. And much quicker than typing. I guess the issue is changing habits. Another is good reliable voice recognition software for the mac.

  6. Voice enabled iphones controlling other devices could be huge time savers. I actually don’t understand why voice control is not more used today. Back in 2004, I was writing computer training manuals with ibm viavoice and dragon naturally speaking. Very reliable programs. And much quicker than typing. I guess the issue is changing habits. Another is good reliable voice recognition software for the mac.

  7. I was just thinking which devices should be IP-ized, where to draw the line? Are there some which certainly should not be for security reasons, like the oven?

    Hmm… Should the power drill have a web server running on it? Slightly stupid question, I know, but initially one easily underestimates the value of a networked device.

  8. I was just thinking which devices should be IP-ized, where to draw the line? Are there some which certainly should not be for security reasons, like the oven?

    Hmm… Should the power drill have a web server running on it? Slightly stupid question, I know, but initially one easily underestimates the value of a networked device.

  9. We can still dial our phones in California, we just can’t hold it up to our ears, so voice activation could be forced upon us by legislation. Apple and AT&T can copy Sprint and many other providers that have had voice-activated for a long time (onStar anyone?)

    I mean it worked for Visual Voicemail, heh.

  10. We can still dial our phones in California, we just can’t hold it up to our ears, so voice activation could be forced upon us by legislation. Apple and AT&T can copy Sprint and many other providers that have had voice-activated for a long time (onStar anyone?)

    I mean it worked for Visual Voicemail, heh.

  11. OMG. The NOISE. That’s great if you live alone and need someone to talk to. But in other households, I foresee shouting matches to get the TV’s attention. ESPN!!! AMERICAN IDOL!!!! and so on and so on.

    Can’t I just get some kind of embedded thingamagiggie that I picks up my thought waves?

    Seriously, the revolutionary part of this, is that you only need one kind of device that controls all the electronic equipment in your environment. How you access it is just a minor detail, hopefully customizable by the individual. Scoble can talk to his stove, I’ll just wave my hand at it.

  12. OMG. The NOISE. That’s great if you live alone and need someone to talk to. But in other households, I foresee shouting matches to get the TV’s attention. ESPN!!! AMERICAN IDOL!!!! and so on and so on.

    Can’t I just get some kind of embedded thingamagiggie that I picks up my thought waves?

    Seriously, the revolutionary part of this, is that you only need one kind of device that controls all the electronic equipment in your environment. How you access it is just a minor detail, hopefully customizable by the individual. Scoble can talk to his stove, I’ll just wave my hand at it.

  13. Isn’t it funny how no one ever mentions that the HTC phones like the Tilt and Touch, have the same capabilities as the iPhone, but that it actually works! Unlike the iPhone, with HTC, you can “cook” your own phone and features to it. Features like finding the local pizza joint by speaking to your phone. I don’t understand the undeserved man love for the iPhone. Its a cool device, yes – but its a device that is CONTROLLED by a company that does not always have all of the answers.

  14. Isn’t it funny how no one ever mentions that the HTC phones like the Tilt and Touch, have the same capabilities as the iPhone, but that it actually works! Unlike the iPhone, with HTC, you can “cook” your own phone and features to it. Features like finding the local pizza joint by speaking to your phone. I don’t understand the undeserved man love for the iPhone. Its a cool device, yes – but its a device that is CONTROLLED by a company that does not always have all of the answers.

  15. I don’t think there’s any need for server farms for voice recognition. Already even dumbphones have enough power to do simple voice dialling. Moore’s law is rapidly going to make this kind of thing very practical.

    When IPv6 rolls out, that’ll increase the address space enough to give every device on the planet a publically routable ip address, making control from anywhere in the world trivial, no tedious mucking about with NATs.

    I’d say easily the biggest headache would be standardizing the rest interfaces and making stuff from different vendors play nice together.

  16. I don’t think there’s any need for server farms for voice recognition. Already even dumbphones have enough power to do simple voice dialling. Moore’s law is rapidly going to make this kind of thing very practical.

    When IPv6 rolls out, that’ll increase the address space enough to give every device on the planet a publically routable ip address, making control from anywhere in the world trivial, no tedious mucking about with NATs.

    I’d say easily the biggest headache would be standardizing the rest interfaces and making stuff from different vendors play nice together.

  17. pointless technology. Maybe useful for OAPs and disabled people.

    But it’d be easy to enable, most of us have computers, Wiis, Playstations with broadband. Load up some website that would use a massive server farm to understand your voice commands, it would know who you are and what the IP address of your ‘stove’ is and issue commands from over the internet.

    Imagine this with a bit of simple AI bolted on, it’s going to revolutionise how we do things. ‘search google for the song that is playing on radio 1′ ‘turn the oven on at 4 and turn it off when the pizza is done’

    The future is all about server farms and quick access.

    Google is the tip. Everyone else is catching up slowly… :-)

  18. pointless technology. Maybe useful for OAPs and disabled people.

    But it’d be easy to enable, most of us have computers, Wiis, Playstations with broadband. Load up some website that would use a massive server farm to understand your voice commands, it would know who you are and what the IP address of your ‘stove’ is and issue commands from over the internet.

    Imagine this with a bit of simple AI bolted on, it’s going to revolutionise how we do things. ‘search google for the song that is playing on radio 1′ ‘turn the oven on at 4 and turn it off when the pizza is done’

    The future is all about server farms and quick access.

    Google is the tip. Everyone else is catching up slowly… :-)

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