MacRumors (via TechCrunch) is reporting that the next major version of Apple's iOS will include more deeply integrated voice controls. I've been hoping for something like this for a while. Voice control is the inevitable direction for interacting with machines, especially mobile devices lacking a full-sized keyboard. Google's mobile OS, Android, is currently ahead on this. It allows you to enter text with your voice in any application. iOS has some basic voice controls for making phone calls and playing music, but I've long hoped that they would extend this to more applications, including 3rd party apps. There are some very useful (and free) iOS apps that you can control with your voice, including Dragon Dictation, Dragon Search, Vlingo and Siri. Apple acquired Siri about a year ago.
If you haven't seen Siri in action yet, check out this video:
It's impressive, but I'm excited to see what Apple could do with this after 1.5 years of development integrating it into iOS. Currently I can hold my phone's home button and then say, "Call Sara" or "Play songs by Phoenix," but I'd love to be able to say, "Listen to NPR newscast," "Start 10 minute timer," "Search Amazon for books about programming" or even "Hulu Plus: Play last night's Daily Show." If Apple provides a voice API to 3rd party developers we'll see stuff like that and much more.
The new features of iOS are expected to be revealed at Apple's developer conference, WWDC, this June. They'll also be discussing their new version of the desktop operating system, OS X Lion (10.7). Developers with early releases of that have already discovered that it contains some new text-to-speech voices. Perhaps that's a clue that Lion will be getting some voice control features, too. I've been using voice control and dictation software on my Mac for years (currently Dragon Dictate), but it suffers from the same lack of OS integration as Siri. It only makes sense for Apple to include these features in both iOS and OS X.
What do you think? Do you like talking to machines? Or are you frustrated by inaccuracies? When a machine responds to a voice command, do you say "Thank you"?
Update (July 25, 2011):
More info has come out about this new feature. It's rumored to be called "Assistant."
Update 2 (October 4, 2011):
Apple has officially announced the new feature and they're calling it Siri.
Last night was the Winter Solstice, a natural holiday that humans have celebrated for millennia. It's the point in our orbit around the sun when the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun at its highest angle (23° 26'). Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year. Days have been getting shorter and nights have been getting longer since the Summer Solstice, but now that trend is reversed. Tomorrow night will be shorter than last night. We've turned the corner. Spring is coming!
This is reason to celebrate. There are still many cold nights before spring, but we've made it this far together. It's natural to feel down during these darkest weeks of the year, so we fight against that. My family will be cheering ourselves by basking in the warmth of a fireplace, lighting up the house, displaying that resilient creature, the evergreen tree, in our home, exchanging gifts, telling stories, eating sweets, singing songs, sipping intoxicating beverages, taking a break from work and school, visiting family and sharing extravagant meals.
Whatever you're celebrating this time of year, I wish you the best. From my family to yours: Merry Christmas, happy Solstice, happy holidays and a happy and prosperous New Year!
A family in our area is suffering through the tragedy of losing a loved one who was in the military and the hateful Westboro Baptist Church is coming from Witicha to Harrisonville to rub salt in their wounds by protesting the funeral. I think everyone in the area can agree that these people are not welcome. Regardless of our opinions about gay rights, we can all recognize that this stunt is just mean. Here's what they had to say when announcing the protest on their website:
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Harrisonville, MO November 23, 2010 9:15 AM - 10:00 AM
WBC will picket a respectful distance from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Whorehouse where they will take a break from raping the children long enough to worship the corpse of Cpl. Jacob R. Carver whom God blew up with an IED, dispatching his soul to hell forever. He is not a hero! He fought for the fags' rights to eat each other's feces and the whore's right to murder her unborn child. Our message is for the living, and we remind you Missouri brutes again that you have made God your #1 enemy by your refusal to obey. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. (Pr. 1:24-30.) It's too late for Doomed america and Doomed missouri! If there be any among you that has an ear to hear, come out from among them and be separate, and do not partake of their wickedness -- DO NOT WORSHIP THAT DEAD BODY! Fear God and keep His commandments -- that is the whole duty of man. (Ec. 12:13.) Amen!
As hateful and nonsensical as that is, it's still mild compared to this law, supposedly from the mouth of God:
If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. Leviticus 20:13
Though the WBC only uses words, this verse
promotes commands actual physical violence and murder. It's good that so many of us can agree that the WBC is wrong and unwelcome. Will you also join me in condemning and rejecting the Bible verses that fuel their hate?
I just heard a story on the radio that mentioned the cost of the Human Genome Project. I was amazed at how cheap it sounded compared to some other things our country spends money on. I thought it sounded like less than we spent on war over any given weekend. Sequencing the human genome will have a lasting impact on the well-being of humanity from here on out. In a few years getting your DNA sequenced will probably be a regular part of visiting the doctor and will provide insights into your health that we can barely imagine now. I'm proud of our country for leading this groundbreaking effort.
I also thought about another of my favorite scientific endeavors, the Hubble Space Telescope. It is one of the most powerful scientific instruments that humanity has created. With it we've seen back in time to the infancy of the universe. Hubble has shown us how vast and full our universe is. It's opened up new areas for us to discover and, like the genome project, its cost is minor compared to what we spend on killing people and breaking things:
How much could we learn and how much could we improve the lives of all humanity if we spent that money on science rather than war?
In 2008 Barack Obama was elected by a sizable majority of voters. Now, just over a year and a half into his term, he has accomplished about as many of his campaign promises as you would expect a president to be able to do in such a short time and during a recession.
If anything, he has been more of a centrist than many of us hoped. Don't ask don't tell has yet to be repealed. The American military detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba is still open. We still have troops in Iraq (though it's much fewer than when he took office). Last year's health insurance reform bill did not include a public option, and we're still waiting for energy reforms and reforms on Wall Street to ban or regulate some of the risky practices that contributed to our current economic troubles. But on each of these issues, Republicans would be much worse.
All things considered, I think the Obama administration is doing an excellent job. He passed health insurance reform that will rein in some of the most abusive practices of insurance companies and help more people get coverage. The Obama administration has increased funding for our veterans. He passed consumer protections for credit cards. Scientific research is getting more funding. Lobbyists are getting less access to executive branch officials. And he hasn't started any new wars.
The economic stimulus bill has created jobs and helped to start our recovery. Forty percent of it was tax cuts. It also provided $1,500,000 to the Adrian community for education and infrastructure improvements, protecting jobs in our area and preparing us for the future.
Obviously many people disagree with my assessment. It's typical for the party in power to lose some congressional seats in a midterm election during an economically tough period (Clinton lost 52 House seats in 1994), but I don't know of any good reasons to give control of Congress back to the Republican Party.
Many of the complaints I'm hearing are related to budget deficits, and it's true that the deficits have increased under Obama. But again, this is typical for recession. And he certainly doesn't deserve all the blame. The previous administration made the unprecedented move of cutting taxes during wartime. Bush also signed into law an expensive and unfunded Medicare drug program. With two extremely expensive wars, tax cuts for the richest Americans and many other spending increases, Bush took the budget surplus given to him by the Clinton Administration and turned it into the deficit that he handed off to Obama.
There are two ways to reduce the deficit: increase revenue or decrease expenditures. Though there is a lot of noise from the right about the deficit, I'm not hearing many concrete and feasible ideas for reducing it. The GOP and the Tea Party want to cut taxes. That will make the deficit worse, not better. They do talk about cutting spending, but they are rarely specific. For example, the Republican running for the house in my district was pressed for suggestions on spending cuts and she named the federal highway beautification funds, a budget item only slightly larger than the subsidies paid to her own farm.
Only two years after America voted to put the GOP out of power and give the Democrats a chance to fix the mess, people are getting impatient. But giving control back to the Republican party is a mistake. Missouri is poised to elect Roy Blunt (R) to the Senate. He's consistently rated as one of the most corrupt members of the House. Do we really want him representing us in Washington? I'll be voting for Robin Carnahan. I would be proud to have her serve alongside our other Senator, Claire McCaskill.
I'd like to speak to the people who supported the Democrats in 2008 who are thinking about switching or just not voting. Get out and vote Tuesday. Obama is accomplishing what we sent him to DC to do and I'm proud to continue to support him. Let's keep the change going.
I have some honest questions for my Christian readers. If I am misunderstanding what you believe, please correct me.
Do you believe that your god knows about a cure for cancer and yet refuses to share that information with humans? If he knows everything and is capable of communicating with humans (two ideas most Christians would agree with), then why is he holding out on us? Millions of people have prayed fervently for the god's help in the fight against cancer. There are any number of ways he could communicate this vital information: A full-page ad in a major newspaper, a half-hour special on network television, a semester long class at a university, a press conference at the Mayo Clinic, or if subtlety were important he could anonymously scribble the some hints on a whiteboard in a cancer research facility.
What would you think of a team of researchers who discovered a cure for cancer and then refused to share it? I think it would be a vile thing to do and I don't see how it's any better if the perpetrator were a deity. Of course, a cure for cancer is just one of the many pieces of information that humans are desperately seeking. An omniscient deity could have revealed all kinds of information throughout human history and saved millions of lives. But so far those answers have come from the painstaking work of scientists and inventors, not from religious texts or traditions.
How do you reconcile the idea of praying for someone who has cancer with the idea that your god is withholding the information that would answer your prayers?
If Muslims shouldn't build a community center in lower Manhattan because a few nutjobs from one sect of their religion committed grave crimes near there, then we shouldn't allow any churches to be built near schools because a few nutjobs from one sect of that religion have raped children.
Or maybe the psychopath killers in al-Qaeda don't represent all Muslims any more than the psychopath rapist priests represent all Christians.
I've been digitizing some old home movies and this is one of my all-time favorites. It's my kid sister, Jenny, on October 6, 1991. She's almost 3 years old and just goofing off in the bathroom sink, being cute.
This April I will be running for the office of north ward alderman in Adrian, Missouri. Last spring I was appointed to serve the remainder of someone else's term, and now I am running for my own term. No one else filed for this office, so I am running unopposed.
The city has several projects going and I look forward to seeing them completed. Any day now we will be breaking ground on our water line replacement project. After that is complete (early this summer) we hope to begin some improvements of street surfaces. We are also looking at plans for expanding our water production plant. These infrastructure improvements are laying the groundwork for the next period of growth in Adrian.
I look forward to seeing these projects completed and if you live in my ward (north of Main Street) I would appreciate your vote this April.