Saturday, 28 November 2015

in which my television doesn't understand me

I commented the other day about talking to my car and it generally getting the directions right.

It's the same with the dictation that I've tried for the NaNoWriMo this time. I'm up around 65,000 words at the moment and I'd honestly say that my spoken sections have better typing than the pieces I've tapped in manually. I've not been so good on rendering all the punctuation in my speaking version, but it's still made a decent job of finishing sentences and so on.

Less so when I've talked to Cortana in Windows 10. The party tricks all work fine and the Cortana Susan voice sings a mean 'man on the flying trapeze' as well as a few other out of copyright tunes and answers questions about Siri with aplomb. It even works with "what's the time?" and "what's the temperature?" type quizzing. But I've decided Cortana doesn't know about Essex. I've asked it things like 'How to get to Newcastle by road' and it will return maps and timings.

Then when I tried "Hey Cortana, How do I get to Upminster, Essex" it decided to go bonkers. Nothing useful although it was prepared to show me some American football games. I decided to try the near neighbourhood of Romford. Similar problems. When I just asked for "Essex" it gave me a route to a fishing tackle shop on the Suffolk border. No, I fear that piece of technology has a way to go.

What about Apple TV? I've given up on the voice controls at the moment. Even Skip Forward and Skip Backward jump it out of the movie and back to the iTunes Store. Perhaps I'm not buying enough.

I've also got one of those Amazon Fire systems. Slightly better luck if I'm hunting for movies, but it will still go all desperate on me and list a bunch of unrelated stuff if it's not sure. And that's even when it has managed to decode my speech properly.

At least the Amazon Fire aggregates the better versions of Amazon, Netflix, iPlayer, ITV Hub, UKTV, Curzon Home Cinema and even Plex. It still needs a proper version of Spotify and at that point it will be a pretty complete viewer.

Maybe I'll practice some more with the voice control although I'm not convinced that the Apple and Amazon boxes have any heuristics to improve their recognition.

Still, I've reprogrammed both of their nifty little handsets to work instead from the Logitech Harmony. Harmony seems to be the strong silent type.

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