How Will Technology Change by 2020?

It’s a good question — one that the people at the Pew Internet and American Life Project posed to a number of technology leaders. You can read their thoughts on where technology is going here.

Many of the respondents are optimistic about the future of speech recognition, predicting its wide adoption and broad use in our daily lives by 2020. Others are not so optimistic:

“Voice will continue to be the most over-sold, over-hyped, but unused interface,” noted Walt Dickie, executive vice president and CTO for C&R Research.

“Voice recognition has been a holy grail of computing since ‘Star Trek’ in the 1960s,” wrote Charles Ess, a researcher on online culture and ethics based at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, a leader of the Association of Internet Researchers. “Like the artificial intelligence that was supposed to make it happen…it has faltered for a host of reasons, beginning with technical ones. Perhaps there will be some sort of technological breakthrough in the next few years that will make voice-recognition workable and affordable – but I’m not optimistic.”

Perhaps the issue is less about speech recognition technology advancing to the point where we can carry on conversations with helpful machines just as we do with other humans (a la Star Trek) and more about adjusting our expectations for the role that speech recognition can play in how we interact with devices.

I’ve always thought that speech could most effectively play a complimentary role to other types of user interfaces (keyboard, mouse, stylus, touch screen).

I predict that by 2020 we will have better aligned out expectations of how speech recognition technology can be used, and that we will have more fully embraced the notion of multi-modality.