Android 1.0. HTC Dream – 2008
When the first Android phones were launched it was unclear (to me at least1) how the ideas of “search” and “mobile phone” would come together. (crazy, I know!)
Fast forward to 2017, voice command and search integration with a security camera app might, soon, allow a user to say the commands:
“Go to camera 34,
go back an hour,
go forward 5 minutes,
go back 1 minute,
jump to live,
switch to Front Gate camera”.
The voice commands would control an app which would chromecast to a big screen.
This vision is not exceptionally fanciful as many security camera apps can do all of the above today – except using a visual touch UI.
Voice commands and search are closely connected. A voice command is inherently vague. Search is a key computational mechanism used to interpret a voice command and find a best-fit reply.
There are just two barriers holding back the vision as outlined above: 1) in app search and 2) custom voice commands.
1) In app search is available only in a very limited sense at present. You can have Google index the app manifest. App functions then show up when you do a relevant search. This however does nothing to help search the user generated content within an app.
Google have tried search of data held on private computers before. In 2004 Google launched a PC application called Desktop. Google Desktop indexed all data on your PC. The project was closed in 2011 because Google “switched focus to cloud based content storage”.
2) Requests for custom voice actions from third party app developers are currently closed. (also the case for SIRI btw)
Custom voice commands – not yet (Dec 2016)
With both in app search and custom voice actions not being available it seems like the vision for fully integrated voice control of apps is not viable – for now.
If OK Google and SIRI continue to grow in popularity will the pressure for custom voice commands also be the catalyst for enabling in app search?
Voice actions and in app search could be (more easily?) achieved if you move the location of apps from the phone to a google/apple account in the cloud. An added advantage of apps in the cloud is that we could log on from anywhere and use custom apps.
Choose Google or Apple
With thanks to uber, maps, cheating in pub quizzes and countless other uses it is now clear that search and phones are a perfect match. It seems (to me at least2) that the next wave of development for search and phones will involve voice commands. Voice command based interfaces also seem to fit well with wearables and control of IoT devices.
To conclude, a seasonal wish list for 2017:
- In app search for user generated data
- Custom voice commands made accessible to third party app developers
- Move the concept of apps away from the phone and onto a Google account. No more downloading.