the birth of the spoken web
Over the years, I have developed platforms that single-handedly sought to usher in the age of the Spoken Web. This work predates the work that IBM is currently doing with its newly-formed research lab in India and their Spoken Web Project. The Spoken Web is a solution that I've been researching and developing for the last 4 years to help human beings overcome what I like to call "situational disability." Situational disability occurs when any human being finds himself in a situation where they that lack the "ability" to access information due to internal and external handicaps.
The common way for human beings to overcome these situational disabilities is through the use of assistive technologies. As human beings, we can only carry so many grocery items when we walk through the aisles of a grocery store. A shopping cart is an assistive technology that helps us overcome this handicap. Remove the shopping cart from the shopping experience and you will see a cascading negative effect that imapacts both consumer purchase behavior and average revenue per customer.
A scarcity factor is brought on by the limited number of items that can be comfortably carried. This introduces more rigor into the selection process and less ad-hoc tossing of shopping items into the cart. This cascading effect impacts the shopping experience even before the customer enters the store. At home, I'm forced to alter the way I create my grocery list, by picking and choosing only those items that I can comfortably carry (or what I'm willing to pay someone else to carry for me). Assistive technologies such as shopping carts improve human performance.
The shopping experience is not much unlike the navigation and selection process that occurs when a person enters the home page of a busy news portal. Again, we run into a similar handicap.
A human being can only consume so much information in a one sitting. When presented with too many options, a condition known as "choice paralysis" occurs, forcing users to choose nothing. We have a situation where an overabundance of information creates a poverty of attention. We are blinded by too many options, and as a result, are unable to pick any one option. The biggest handicap of the modern world is the overabundance of information and the scarcity of time.
I have concerns over the future of the internet and the accessibility of the information that it seeks to deliver. There are situations that prevent me from accessing information; information that might change how I manage my health or raise my future children. There are situations that render my ability to purchase a $2,200 mobile phone reader out of my reach due to the expensive nature of such devices. Situational handicaps can come in the form of your personal financial situation or even your physical situation. Perhaps you may even find yourself handicapped by your time situation. All of these situations handicap your ability to get the information you need, when and how you want it.
In the coming years, we will see talking computers move out of the extremely overpriced "assistive technology" market and become more mainstream to help everyday humans access information in a more convenient and efficient way.