Every year IBM releases a "Next Five in Five" list, a list of innovations that "have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years". This is the third such list, and it mentions a "Talking Web" among the 5 items. You will talk to the Web and the Web will talk back, according to IBM. In the future "you will be able to surf the Internet, hands-free, by using your voice - therefore eliminating the need for visuals or keypads."
In fact this is already starting to happen, as recent iPhone releases from Google and Say Where show.
We can definitely see the potential in a Talking Web - responding to emails quickly using voice, searching the web by barking orders into your computer / phone, composing blog posts by dictating, and so on. The shift to voice will happen in some places for cultural reasons and as a by-product of the rise in popularity of mobile phones to access the Web. IBM notes that in India the spoken word is more prominent than the written word in education, government and culture, so "talking" to the Web is set to usurp all other interfaces. IBM predicts that this change will be driven by new technology, with speech instead of text as the main interface. IBM calls this "VoiceSites," noting that "people without access to a personal computer and Internet, or who are unable to read or write, will be able to take advantage of all the benefits and conveniences the Web has to offer."
Will all this happen in 5 years? While at least one Slashdot commenter thinks it'll be more like 15 years, we see plenty of evidence of voice recognition software on the Web already. ust a week or so ago Google released an update of its Google Mobile App for the iPhone (iTunes link), which included voice recognition to translate voice commands into search queries. In our tests, we found the voice recognition to be very accurate. Google also offers voice search through GOOG-411 and Yahoo and other information providers offer similar services. There are a whole host of talking search engines in fact. Also, we're seeing voice apps from startups - such as the Say Where iPhone application (our review).
Here are the full 5 predictions from IBM:
- Energy saving solar technology will be built into asphalt, paint and windows
- You will have a crystal ball for your health
- You will talk to the Web . . . and the Web will talk back
- You will have your own digital shopping assistants
- Forgetting will become a distant memory