Siri, AI and TV Collide

October 27th, 2011
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Imagine talking to your TV, and having it answer you. Such a scenario is what the editors at the MacRumors website are suggesting Apple will soon unleash to the world. In this article, they say the Siri, the iPhone 4S virtual assistant, will be coming to television soon. Once Apple enters the Smart TV market, many others will scramble to compete.

For instance, instead of hunting through crevices in furniture or fumbling with a remote that always manages to bewilder you in the dark, you would simply say: Siri, please play me the final 30 minutes of 2001: A Space Oddyssey, and voila! we could watch HAL 9000’s neurotic breakdown and have some psychedelic visuals afterward to soothe our own neuroses.

Imagine saying: “Siri, please turn on Spanish subtitles”, or, “Siri, please mute sound.” Or maybe, “Siri, fast forward.” or “rewind” or “slow-mo”. Or maybe, “Siri, what did Sheldon just say?”, and have her rewind to the right moment in the action. Id love to be able to say: “Siri, connect my BlueRay player” or “Siri, connect my laptop” instead of having to awkwardly press buttons to do the same.

I don’t know how this would be backward compatible with DVD menus, which operate on a point and click paradigm. But I’m absolutely sure Apple would mean this to replace DVDs and Bluerays alltogether, as it has been trying to do for years.

I suppose all video would be streamed to the smart TV, and we would finally be free from our fixation on little plastic discs. But there’s the rub: studios will be loath to give up their greatest revenue stream, selling those little plastic discs.

Siri, of course, is the first natural language voice recognition software that has taken center stage in a mainstream product: the iPhone 4S. I follows the paradigm set forth by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick in their seminal film, mentioned above: speech as a user interface.

But I imagine a farther future when every house will have an 3d holographic avatar as a user interface. Keyboards will only be used for formal writing, if at all. The mouse? Why have a mouse when we have hands and fingers? Or, if we need fine control, a stylus is much more natural. Children will play with their own holographic avatars from toddlerhood. This might be accomplished by having 3d projectors in the ceilings of our rooms.

By then, movies might occur in a 3d space much like a stage, bringing them back to their theatrical roots. Maybe some experimental movies would break the fourth wall, like Hair, and have avatars as actors interacting with the people in the room.

I imagine the future of entertainment as coming full circle to its human roots, with technology so effortless, that it resembles magic. I miss Steve Jobs’s pitch of the new Apple TV, I’m sure that’s just the word he’d choose.

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