Google (News - Alert) has been bringing quite a few exciting developments out to the SXSW Interactive field, from more about the Google Glass to a bit about shoes that talk and encourage in the course of getting exercise.
But perhaps one of the most exciting developments came from Amit Singhal, the head of Google's search operations, who said Google wanted computers to be less about keyboards and more about "Star Trek."
Naturally, computers don't get from keyboards to voice inputs overnight. Singhal elaborated on a laundry list of technologies that required a shot in the arm before reaching the point at which computers would look less like they're being run by input devices, and more like they're being run by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry – including things like improvements in touch controls, voice controls, and sensory technology in general.
Google has already been shown offering some significant advances on those fronts, especially with the Google Glass system in which users can tell the system to search for desired terms, then have the results displayed in a field right in a user's line of sight. That led Singhal to express some general optimism with the concept, saying, "These are some of the best times in search. All the technology is coming together: speak recognition, knowledge graph, natural language understanding - there are new devices coming out, so when you marry all this, tomorrow is looking bright."
He's got a point here, of course; search has already been seen taking on a distinctly "Star Trek" flavor thanks to Siri, who can provide information on a wide variety of topics by simply asking it a question, vocally.
While naturally, there's still quite a ways to go – Siri's blooper reel is certainly not blank – there's also just as much progress made over even just a few years ago. Google Voice Search is also showing itself to be a fine competitor, with plenty of advances made in a comparatively short period of time.
It's somewhat easy to look at the overall search market and see where Singhal's coming from on this one. After all, there are a lot of separate technologies converging to create a larger and more impressive whole, and some of these technologies have been in development for the better part of 20 years or longer.
But that coalescence is also making a lot of new technologies in its own right.
While we may still be a few years out from just asking a computer a question and getting an answer – in some cases, just typing a question into a search engine can't produce a reliable answer – the key takeaway is that that's the direction in which the technology is moving. It's likely a very positive direction, both for science fiction buffs longing for a trip to any version of the Enterprise and for those who aren't so skilled alike.
But the future is coming on faster and faster, and the day in which voice systems are at their best may not be so far away.
Edited by Braden Becker