Who Needs A VoiceOver iPod When You Can Blink? - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
3/12/2009
10:44 AM
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Who Needs A VoiceOver iPod When You Can Blink?

Apple introduced the third-generation iPod Shuffle yesterday, and it comes with a feature called "VoiceOver" that announces your song choices. I think I/O controls are the next great undiscovered country for mobile devices, don't you?

Apple introduced the third-generation iPod Shuffle yesterday, and it comes with a feature called "VoiceOver" that announces your song choices. I think I/O controls are the next great undiscovered country for mobile devices, don't you?The new gizmo couldn't be smaller (it replaces a model that was already reminiscent of a large postage stamp). Storage capacity approaches 1,000 songs, which is for most users a threshold that allows them to carry around tunes that they listen to once every decade. Pricing is, well, a bit pricey, but that's Apple, and the cost ratio of portability, song count, sound quality, and lots of other benefits over the price is still a shockingly good deal (especially to those of use who remember buying LPs).

If only it could read my mind...because no matter how smart the designers try to work around it, my heightened experiences are impeded by the limitations of what my clumsy fingertips and unreliable eyesight can command.

Enter some research in Japan: grad school engineers have developed an infrared sensor that reads facial expressions by measuring tiny movements in the ear, and to which player controls could be tagged. A smile could raise volume, while a frown lowered it. Stick out your tongue and advance to the next song. Raise your eyebrows to reveal the song name. Blink to turn off your player.

This "Mimi Switch" is still a what if, but it's in keeping with the various voice-command, voice-to-text transcription, eye-movement, and other translation efforts under way to effect a more seamless connection between user and device. Think Wii, only now you're controlling your fridge. Usage opportunities would rise exponentially if the I/O controls on our machines were more intuitive and simple.

So the new iPod Shuffle is cool and fun, but it's but a tantalizing hint of what I suspect if coming down the pike, sooner vs. later.

Who wants faster, smaller, or more, when you always need easier?

Jonathan Salem Baskin writes the Dim Bulb blog and is the author of Branding Only Works On Cattle.

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