The date will go down in history. As of October, 2011 the interface for ubiquitous computing shifted from devices like keypads and touch screens to the human voice. That landmark event changes the future of MESH Cities.
Cities have always been awe inspiring, and often overwhelming to their users. Maybe as a way to reduce that alienation, sometime over the last four millennia civilizations began describing cities in terms of their human characteristics. Some, like Copenhagen, got equated to women. Others, like Rome, to men. That human need to personalize and simplify the complexity of cities got a boost from Apple Corporation.
As part of the iOS5 operating system for the iPhone and iPad, Apple released Siri, a voice interface that not only will change computing it will change how we interact with cities. Until recently the problem with ubiquitous city computing was that users remained out of the loop because they were generally unlikely to have the tools handy to interact with the system. With Siri, that changes.
Now, all the users of intelligent, responsive cities need is their voice. It will take a generation or so for the technology to work its way through the various city Apps driven by the “Urban Operating System.” But it will. Welcome to the future of cities: The future is you… and you… and you…
A.I. researcher Ray Kurzweil notes in his book, “How to Create a Mind,” that the technology underlying Siri adopts speech recognition algorithms from Nuance Inc. Those systems are based on self-adapting, self-organizing methods similar to “hierarchical hidden Markov models.” Complex technology is from advanced research is being harnessed to make cities “subtle” (MESH is an acronym that stands for Mobile, Efficient, Subtle, Heuristics. Subtle technologies are those that make complex systems so responsive to human needs that they become virtually invisible).
Addendum: Note that other voice recognition solutions are gaining market traction and may well contribute to the evolution of the the voice-actualized city. Apple’s launch of the iPhone 4s and iOS5 represents the most pervasive, mobile-based system and deserves recognition for that achievement. Take a look at Google’s voice-drive search system below.