There was a time when input was a major challenge. Truly a problem. Imagine if every time you had a witty comment you'd have to grab a set of punch cards and carefully puncture your 140 characters long witty remark.
Long gone are those days. Computers are much smarter and the keyboard, our main input device is amazing. The keyboard sitting in your basement, where you unceremoniously buried your PC, is so amazing that we built computers with built-in keyboards. Instead of laptops we should have named them keyboard-top-computers... OK, laptop is fine I guess.
As if that is not enough, the keyboard is so amazing that we created smaller devices too small to carry a physical keyboard, and then we added virtual keyboards to type directly on the screen. The keyboard is a very ergonomic device that could be seen as an extension of ourselves. When my computer mouse fails me, I use the keyboard. When the keyboard fails me, my life is over.
Kudos to the inventors of the keyboard.
Side note: The fastest typist in the world, Barbara Blackburn, wrote an astonishing 212 words per minute. That's 3 times faster than I can think.
This is just to show you how efficient this little rectangular box can be when it comes to transferring our thoughts into a computer. We are pretty good with our fingers, even when it is not for typing.
If I ask you to add an event to your calendar, I'm pretty sure you can do it within a few seconds. If I ask to send me a text message, I'm sure my phone will vibrate in the next couple seconds. If I ask you to tell me how bad traffic is on my drive home, how tall the Eiffel tower is, when Abraham Lincoln's birthday is, you will still find all this information using your fingers in a matter of seconds.
Do you agree? I'll assume you said yes.
Then comes voice input. Voice input is fun. Imagine being down on the subway and instantly remembering a thought that had long escaped your mind.
“OK Google. Remind me to order a new battery when I get home”
The rest of the riders will look at you in awe. Or they will look at you weird. The phone will ask you to repeat because the subway was too noisy to make up the words you were saying. So you will try again. And again, then it will get it right. You could have shopped for a new phone battery while in the subway but at least you had fun showing off.
Don't get me wrong, this is not just sarcasm, I think there is a place for voice input. It is the only way of interaction for some users with limited accessibility. Without voice input the little things we take for granted on our electronic devices wouldn't be accessible to them.
But here is what Google, Apple, and Microsoft are telling us.
“Listen, typing is hard. Why don't you let your assistant do it for you.”
Typing is not hard. They are trying to convince us there is a problem where there is none. Voice command is amazing when you have both hands on the wheel. But it is definitely not the easiest way to set up an appointment or call work.
Not that we don't need an assistant, but the devices we hold in our hands are already playing their role as assistants. Using Cortana is like having an assistant for your assistant. Voice commands is only used as a gimmick... so far. Using the touch interface is far more efficient on any device I have ever used.
Watch the Oculus VR get a keyboard any minutes now.