Libraries As Places Where Talking is Necessary? A speculative glance at the future of voice-searching

January 5, 2010, 6:03 pm


I’m been thinking about voice lately… as in no keyboard and just talking. There is a lot of wild speculation about the new Apple tablet and how it is going to change the world. [Full disclosure, I am now officially one of those annoying Mac evangelists.  Not sure how it happened—it just kind of snuck up on me.]

Back on point.

There is hype around the idea of using voice for searching, writing, reading, scrolling, navigation, everything, and so on. This seems to be a trend that will only continue to gain momentum as the technology improves and spreads. Let’s leave aside our personal feelings (personally, I hate using the voice feature on my iPhone) and explore this a bit.

What if keyboards are on the way out? Not entirely—I mean, there is something pleasurable about sending a text or an email while you are standing on a bus or are in a crowded room. (Or even in a committee meeting!) Some discretion will always be necessary. We’ll always need a silent mode But…

Let’s project out five to ten years and say that a large chunk of our Internet activity is done via talking rather than typing. What if things flip and typing becomes novel while talking is predominate? Crazy? Perhaps, but check that aside for a minute and just imagine it.

I’ve seen a noticeable shift toward laptops as opposed to desktops with the younger set, so obviously mobile web (phone, tablet, laptop, whatever) is going to continue. What if they also adopt voice over typing. Still to be seen, but more possible now than ever. If the technology continues to improve then it’s going to be a huge shift for everyone.

But what about libraries? What would that mean for our databases and catalogs? Our websites? Our course management systems? Thinking beyond those tangible aspects, consider the behavior and conduct in the building? What if talking is not only permitted but is necessary?

This is the future my friends. I strongly urge all of you attending midwinter to ask reps from OCLC, EBSCOhost, Elsevier, Ex Libris, and whoever else — what is their voice-searching strategy? (If anyone actually does this, please post a response.)

That’s straight Web 3.0 talk for you! In two years I’m be laughing at all of you still using an antique input device.

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