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.

Why is AT&T Family Plan so difficult?

Last year it took two months to get our iPhones all onto AT&T’s family plan. I visited the AT&T store half a dozen times, spent hours on the phone with them before it was all done properly. I assumed then that it was a problem with Apple and AT&T working together and first-day problems that I forgave.

But, today, our iPhones are again on individual plans (not voluntarily, either) and I was told to visit an AT&T store “soon” to get all my accounts onto a family plan. Apple employees tried over and over again to get our phones to join up into a Family Plan, but they couldn’t make it work, so they gave up and told me to go to an AT&T store. The fun starts over again.

This time I totally blame AT&T for not working with Apple and making sure that the process is much smoother for existing customers. Especially since last year Apple wasn’t even part of the problem.

So, AT&T, why is it so hard to make it easy to join all your accounts together into a family plan?

Making it worse this year is I have several accounts:

  1. My iPhone, which now is a 3G.
  2. My son’s iPhone, which is now a 3G.
  3. My wife’s iPhone which will stay an original iPhone.
  4. My Nokia N82 account.
  5. My Nokia N95 account.

So, I have five accounts using several different kinds of phones, which makes it hard to join them all together.

Anyone else having this problem?

UPDATE: AT&T, over the phone, fixed all of our accounts, so I’m happy. They don’t know why the Apple machines weren’t showing that we were all on a family plan yesterday.