Google Glass is great idea. The idea of having an always-on link to your Personal Digital Assistance (PDA) is appealing. Unfortunately, the execution in Google Glass leaves a lot to be desired. For starters, it’s too distracting, both to the user and those around them. Questions arise such as “Is there wearer giving me their full attention?” and “Are they recording our conversation?” Data input is also a challenge since voice is the only real way to interact with Google Glass and unfortunately, the voice recognition is lacking, not to mention the challenges of a noisy environment. Also, let’s face it. They just look silly. I’d certainly consider wearing them when you can get them as contacts or seamlessly built into a pair of Ray-bans, but not as they exist today. So if Google Glass misses the mark, what kinds of things am I looking for in a PDA?
I think that the Perfect Personal Digital Assistant (PPDA?) is one that is there when I need it, not distracting, and invisible the rest of the time (unlike Google Glass). It should use available information to predict my needs and be available to answer any question I might have. Here are some of the attributes the perfect PDA should have:
- Context sensitive voice parsing. I am very impressed with the Windows Phone’s new Cortana voice assistant. Let me give you an example. I asked her “where is the closest theater?” She responded by telling me the name of the closest theater and that it was 1 mile away. Without having to press a button, I responded “how long will it take to get there?” She replied, “it will take you about 1 minute to drive there” and showed a map. I asked, “how long will it take if I walk?” She replied, “…about 12 minutes.” I said “show me” and it launched the mapping app with the walking route highlighted. Not bad at all. That conversational interaction is exactly what the perfect PDA should have. Also, it is very important that the system not require strict syntax for voice commands. The Windows Phone does this pretty well. For example, I can say “Remind me when I get home to check the air filters” or I could say, “When I get home, remind me to check the air filters” or I could say “Remind me to check the filters when I get home.” They all work fine. Cortana creates the reminder and uses GPS to know when I’m home in order to remind me to check the filters.
- The ability to use environment to bring additional value to data. This is already being done well with Google Now and Microsoft Cortana. My windows phone announced to me this week that I had a meeting at 11:30am and given my current location and current traffic conditions, I would need 18 minute to get there and it was thus time to go. I had lost track of time so this was extremely helpful! It’s this kind of well-timed, actionable information that I’m looking for.
- High quality audio transcription. It should be able to automatically take notes on meetings including which speaker said what. I’m not talking about something like Google Voice transcription, which is laughable, but something that can actually take accurate transcriptions. For example, I once used a product called Ribbit, which transcribed the text of voice messages into text. Once, my family called and left a message and Ribbit correctly identified “speakers 1,2,3, & 4” as they each spoke and then came back to speak later. “Speaker 1: Hi honey. Here are the kids. Speaker 2: Hi Dad. Goodnight. Speaker 3: Sorry we missed you. goodnight! Speaker 4: Good night daddy! Speaker 1: Talk to you tomorrow. Bye.” Unfortunately, they went out of business, but the technology exists and that is what is needed.
- The ability to record everything and answer questions about it. How great would it be if a device recorded everything that I said and was said to me, every phone call, every meeting, and provided actionable information based on that information? For example, perhaps in a meeting I say things like, “I’ll take away an action item to get you pricing on XYZ.” My PPDA should recognize from my calendar that I was in a meeting and after I’ve left that meeting, offer to create a to-do list task to get the pricing. Perhaps it even integrates with a CRM like Salesforce to tag that on the customer’s record. It should able to answer my questions like, “when did they say they needed xyz?” and read and dictate emails.
I’ve used a number of examples of how my Windows Phone meets my criteria in what I’m looking for. It’s the closest thing I’ve found. But it is still a long way from being the Perfect PDA. Technology advancements in CPU, memory, and battery life will be necessary to bring my PPDA to life. But I expect I will see it in a few short years. I can’t wait to post my first blog entry entirely dictated, edited, and posted using my PPDA. Is that so much to ask?