In an epically common way, we are all magicians. Phones unlock with a few taps, and voice activated computers perform as best they can given an activating command. Lumos and Nox are effectively “Turn on that light!” Alohomora is your little world of passcodes. Speaking has always been the natural form of communication, and developing voice technology offers a future that renders notebook computers obsolete. Screens and keyboards were developed to make interacting with a computer more user friendly, but being able to talk at computers is the next level of user convenience. Just like how wireless technology is now generally favored over anything still with wires, ubiquitous voice technology can cut the cord on typing and clicking as we know it today. However, writing academic papers and official documents may still be done by hand for quite a while. The natural stops and stutters in human speech must be edited out of such documents and until technology is capable of editing human input and adding in paragraph breaks and punctuation, keyboards are here to stay. However for repetitive tasks like turning something on and off or carrying out a set procedure, there is no doubt that voice activated assistants save the user’s time to perform harder tasks with more focus. But what level of privacy are you willing to trade for convenience?
Computers are most useful when they are personalized, and producers have quickly realized this with algorithms and account settings that design a specific experience just for you. Even in the first generations of Alexa and Google Home, people are already concerned about their privacy in their own home. Users have no clear idea how much of their audio is being recorded and how long. In 2017, Arkansas police asked Amazon for Alexa recordings that could be evidence to close a murder case. Although Amazon refused, stating that there were privacy and legal concerns with handing out user information, clearly Alexa has the potential to know more than whatever command you give after saying “Alexa”. The potential of both convenience and harm is great, and that ratio is up to user acceptance and respected regulatory laws.
Just like how people are using voice technology assistants despite the jokes and paranoia, the path to progressively distinguished models will probably not be barred. Voice commands are quicker and can be given while the user’s attention is on something else. Foreign language classes may be dropped for another technology or art class because a talking machine can communicate just fine twenty years from now. Touchscreens have been the first leap to communicating efficiently with computers, and voice technology will fundamentally alter how humans interact with anything.