I confess I'm a little bit of a voice-interface snob. But lately I wonder if today's cell phone speech recognition technology is just another way for modern gadgetry to make me look like a raving lunatic.
If you have seen or heard me yelling into my phone to connect to a pre-set phone number, you understand what I mean.
"Did you say #23?" my phone recently asked me. I yelled back, "No, no, no!" and was glad nobody was nearby. I was asking the phone to dial my wife, Regan, which is pronounced REE-gun, but which my phone thinks surely must be pronounced RIG-in.
The other day after speaking my wife's name into the phone, the automated voice asked me, "Do you mean RIG-in?" and I said "yes," which connected me successfully. I later saw my wife at home and told her that the teeny-weeny software idiot savant inside my phone has decided her name must be pronounced RIG-in. (In response, she gave me that look that is reserved for couples who have been married a long time, as in, "Yes, you are a nut but I knew that already.")
My phone (an LG flip model running over Verizon Wireless) simplifies my life by allowing me to speak a name, and then it will automatically dial the number associated with that name which I've already stored in the directory.
Usually, it's an invaluable feature that I use while driving or walking, as it means I am basically spared finding the number and then typing it in, or at least finding it in the phone's directory and pressing send.
It's invaluable--to a limit. There's the aforementioned problem with how to pronounce a name, but the software also won't understand the command I'm making if there's too much background noise, or if the little plastic part of my leather phone case creeps up and covers the little microphone hole. (I can't believe how ridiculous it sounds to be talking about phone case creep.)
What's happened with my newest phone, which I've had since January, is that the speech recognition technology just guesses how you pronounce a word. In other words, you don't train the phone to know each name in your directory, as I did with my last model. With this one, you train it once with a pre-determined training sequence, and from then on, the phone basically assures you that it can interpret the text you type in for a name to go with its idea of the proper language pronunciation.
Apparently, the software doesn't understand that in the U.S., or at least some defiant states, we like to pronounce proper names the way we want. Hamilton Jordan pronounced his name JER-dan, even though many in arrogant Washington told him he was wrong.
So, basically, this new phone is telling me, "you have no idea how to pronounce your wife's name."
You've gotta love a device that knows more than you do. I suppose I could find some means of correcting the software, but that would be like yelling at a deaf dog.