Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Live long and Prosper

With an obvious reference to Star Trek, how am I going to tie that in with genealogy today? Easy, today was the day they introduced the talking iPhone. Not just one that you talked through, but one you talked to. Obvious connection with Star Trek? Yeah. But as usual, the media has to find fault with everything Apple. There is either a huge sigh of relief (by other vendors and manufacturers) that there was no iPhone 5 to contend with, or a collective sigh of disappointment from the Apple glitterati that the new iPhone didn't do nails and hair along with everything else.

Now, do I need a talking iPhone? Well, think about it. I am digitally challenged. I have a really hard time getting my clumsy fingers to type, much less push those tiny little icons on the smartphones and Apple is all buttons. They don't tell me how I am supposed to talk to my phone when I am trying very hard to be quiet in a library or at church, but I suppose I can go back to the magic fingers at that point.

Voice activation is not really new at all. My iPhone 4 has had it all along. It just couldn't do anything complicated or useful. Apple's Siri, the voice recognition software, is introduced by a series of thirty-somethings talking to their iPhones and issuing commands like fix dinner for five and wash the dishes afterwards (just kidding) the introductory video is even accompanied by music from Ray Charles (you do remember him). Most of the world is so used to talking on a cell phone by now, that one more step of talking to your cell phone is not a big jump.

One thing I have learned over the years of trying to get voice recognition software to work, is that the program has to "learn your voice." But there is nothing in the promotional advertising about learning anything. The claim is that the phone will understand my extreme Southwestern accent as well as it will your accent from the Deep South. Hmm. Here is a quote from Apple's website,
When there’s something you need to do, just ask Siri to help you do it. It uses almost all the built-in apps on iPhone 4S to find the information you need. Siri writes and sends email messages and texts — and reads them to you, too. It searches the web for anything and everything you need to know. It plays the songs you want to hear. It helps you find your way and shows you around. It places calls. It schedules meetings. It helps you remember. And it wakes you up. Siri tells you almost everything. And it even speaks for itself.
See anything in there about doing genealogy? Neither do I. But what if it works? Interesting thought. I already have about thousand things my present iPhone will do that I don't have time to use, what would it hurt to have a few more.

What about some things that benefit the genealogist a little more directly. How about an 8 Megapixel camera? Now that's more interesting. No need to carry a camera around anymore, the iPhone will take acceptable pictures of documents, cemeteries, relatives and more. In addition the iPhone 4S shoots 1080 pixel HD video. No need for a video camera either. Of course, the new iPhone 4S is connected to Apple's iCloud and has the new iOS 5 software. Is it a gimmick? Apple doesn't do gimmicks.

Would I use the iPhone features? You bet. I carry an iPhone and use dozens and dozens of Apps, a lot regularly every day. I can say that using an iPhone has fundamentally changed the way I interact with the Internet, keep my calendar, pick up email, and manage my genealogy, business dealings and everything else.

OK, so now am I going to get a lot of hate mail from the Android crowd? Probably. Our family is about evenly split between Android phones, iPhones, regular cell phones that don't do anything be act like a phone, iPads, PC computers, iPod Touch and about every other gadget you can think of. What does the future look like? Star Trek? Not yet but getting there rapidly.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not from the Android crowd; I'm from the Troglodytes! I prefer my phone to be stupid. I have enough patience to wait until I can get to one of my four computers (!), including the light netbook I carry to campus, to use the internet. I do not like machines to talk to me, and I'm not terribly fond of talking to machines. And I'll believe such voice-recognition software can work without "training" when pigs fly. Me, I'd be perverse enough to address the silly thing in Spanish. Let's see what it would do with that.