Charlie Chapman didn’t need to harness the power of the voice for his classic silent films. He used slapstick, mime and exaggerated physical movements to portray visually what he wanted the audience to understand. Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis effectively depicted his vision of modern industrial life and no one spoke a word. What could those cinematic superstars have produced if they had Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound technology and the high definition graphics of a tablet?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer paid their homage to the world of silent cinema in their 1999 Hush episode. In 2005 the H.P Lovecraft Historical Society released their silent rendition of Lovecraft’s story The Call of Cthulhu. Silent media will never disappear, though it is now a clever bag of tricks filmmakers, advertisers and marketing consultants use to be artistic, Avant Garde or just plain cool.
Voices say things: they surround us all day long in an endless mélange we often don’t detect. Your desk mate may be on the phone while you’re sending an email and you probably don’t even notice; our brains can filter them out without conscious thought.
Voice matters: voice recognition software, voice dictation, voice search, voice assistance, simultaneous voice translation and a host of other apps are on the market today for tablet users. The lack of a physical keyboard has necessitated the creation of improved voice control systems for tablets. Dragon dictation has been around for years and works well for the dictation of documents. The Dragon app is inexpensive and while the tablet version doesn’t allow for other PC commands like “open control panel,” it does allow for dictation and subsequent posting to various social networking sites. Google search allows those who’d rather not type in their search queries (the digital tablet keyboards do take a fair amount of practice to use efficiently) to search the Internet with the impunity of spoken commands; it brings the definition of couch potato to an entirely new level.
The advances in screen resolution and sound systems have put consumers clearly in tablet designers’ hands. Where before advertisers had banners and popups, they now have fully interactive audio-visual commercials; where plot designers for games had text lines that players could click on for their respective reply to an in-game character, they now have voice commands that more fully immerse the consumer in the game; where documentary creators had short videos and long expanses of text to convince consumers to purchase their film, they now have interactive apps that are the documentary and hours of extras.
Tablet content designers can create 360° graphical representations of their world, replete with audio queues and voice control add-ons. Posting to Twitter, Facebook or sending an email is all fine and good with voice recognition software; the practical uses are limitless. Imagine a fully interactive Discovery Channel experience of climbing Mount Everest, scuba diving in the underwater Turkish city of Kekova, swimming with blue whales or hiking through Yellowstone National Park; once again the uses are limitless.
Voice recognition and translation, voice search and other current capabilities are certainly useful, but to take the next step in the usage of voice for tablets, designers need to look around them and listen to that mélange that is so often ignored – Charlie Chapman certainly would have.