Speech to Computer Interface: Are “Robo-Butlers” Our Future?
Computer-dictating systems have been around for years, but until recently they were notoriously – and often laughably – inaccurate, imprecise, and prone to errors.
These days more people are interacting with technology using the spoken word. The newest generation of voice-enabled devices makes dictating memos, e-mails, and text messages reliable enough to be practical, and voice assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, are available on most smartphones. Voice-driven apps can control smart appliances, furnish directions, answer questions, and give instructions.
But voice is not ready to replace other forms of computer interface (i.e., keyboards and touchscreens), at least not for a while.
“Deep learning” is the technology that enables voice recognition software to recognize and decipher human speech. It “teaches” computers to identify and interpret human speech using complex algorithms. Using deep learning, machines are now able to transcribe more accurately, and sound more natural, less robotic.
However, despite their deep-learning algorithms, computers can’t carry on coherent conversations. They mostly can’t comprehend the nuances of languages or the context in which words are spoken, and usually only respond to simple, one-off voice commands.
Mark Zuckerberg’s “robo-butler,” Jarvis, may be as close as we now get to a bot that can interpret and respond to human speech; but according to his Facebook post, even Zuckerberg himself currently prefers texting Jarvis to giving it voice commands.
Still, in many situations, speaking would be more convenient, safer, and natural than other means of communication. You can talk while driving, working out, jogging, shopping, or doing chores. As well, voice interface is already extending the power of computing to people who are unable, for whatever reason, to use screens and keyboards.
It’s just not quite ready for prime time. Yet.
HOT BIZ TRENDS
Making a Difficult Decision? Maybe You Should Sleep on It
When you were young, making a difficult decision could be daunting. “Sleep on it,” your mother advised. And it turns out she was right.
In a LinkedIn article, Ryan Holmes, CEO at Hootsuite, writes: “There’s great merit to being a decisive leader and trusting your gut. … However, when it comes to making more complicated, high-impact decisions, it is crucial to take some time out – or to ‘sleep on it.'”
Referring to research by neuroscience professor Justin Davis, Holmes reports that our brains have two systems for decision making.
The first is useful for quick decisions and is often based on gut feelings. And while it works well for less important decisions, it can blind us to the facts or, worse yet, to our personal biases.
The second, says Holmes, is a “slower system – a ‘higher order’ network that allows us to objectively reason and make rational decisions.”
In New Scientist, Gaia Vince agrees: “Complex decisions are best left to your unconscious mind to work out … and over-thinking a problem could lead to expensive mistakes.”
Vince quotes Dutch social psychologist Ap Dijksterhuis: “At some point in our evolution, we started to make decisions consciously, and we’re not very good at it. We should learn to let our unconscious handle the complicated things.”
Suggests Holmes, “When you’re faced with an especially complicated or consequential decision at work, try not obsessing on it … instead, let it ‘spin’ in the back of your mind for a while.”
Big decision? Resist your gut reaction and take a breather. Why not sleep on it?
I’m Being Sued – Now What?
We live in a litigious society. The court system sees over a hundred million lawsuits every year.
If your business is involved in one, ensure you take proper steps to navigate the process. Some suits are easily dismissed, while others can cripple your company: the median cost for a business liability lawsuit is around $54,000, and contract disputes are typically closer to $91,000.
With these figures in mind, your essential first step is to obtain proper insurance coverage and have it in place before a suit occurs. The policies that are most applicable in the event of a lawsuit include general liability insurance, workers’ compensation, and professional liability insurance. But if a suit exceeds your policy limitations, the addition of an umbrella policy may save large out-of-pocket expenses, and maybe your company.
Supposing you have solid insurance coverage and are hit with a lawsuit. The next steps are:
Contact your attorney. If you don’t have an attorney already, get one, and review the lawsuit with him or her. Ensure your attorney has all the information needed to accurately and effectively represent you.
Contact your insurance provider. Do this right away, as many policies require you to forward suit papers promptly to your carrier. As you did with your attorney, ensure the details are clear. Verify what coverage you have to determine if the type of suit you are facing is covered under your policies.
If you are concerned your policies might not cover the suit, talk to your agent about the options available to you and to confirm whether the specific circumstances of your case will fall under your policy. Don’t make assumptions about coverage. Check dollar limits as well. This will help you develop a good understanding of how much, if anything, the suit will cost you out of pocket.
Typically, if the suit falls under your policies, the coverage will pay for attorneys’ fees and costs of any settlement.
Decide how to proceed. With professional advice from both your attorney and your insurance provider, determine how to respond to the complaint.
Respond to the complaint. Do this in a professional and timely manner.
Partner with your insurance carrier. Most suits, especially workers’ compensation cases, require investigation. Cooperate with all carriers involved to ensure the case moves along as smoothly as possible. You may need to provide documentation, employee files, or other information. If you receive requests, inform your insurance agent and attorney, who will take care of these requests as appropriate; don’t provide documents to anyone else.
Throughout the process, your insurance provider is a strong ally. Don’t miss out on the advantages this partnership offers. Keep your lines of communication open, and allow your carrier to assist you as you go through this difficult event.
If you are not currently facing a lawsuit, don’t wait until one occurs. Contact your agent to discuss your current policies.
Then make any changes necessary to ensure you’re solidly covered.
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