The Ears of Technology

I remember my surprise and excitement when I first heard about the “voice of Siri” (. The fact that a real person’s voice was behind the technology made Siri feel more human and authentic (and it’s pretty crazy to see the “Siri voice” being projected by a real person).

But for all the excitement about Siri’s voice, I wonder, who’s behind the ears of Siri?

As anyone who’s ever tried to dictate a coherent note via Siri or do a web search knows, Siri finds speaking much easier than listening.

And don’t we all? If you’ve ever tried to speak a foreign language in a different country, you know that it’s much easier to say, “¿Donde etsa el baño?” than to understand the response you might receive.

As web designers we often talk about “communicating effectively”. This usually translates into working on the speaking part of a site or app. It’s the listening part, the part that works to understand what the user’s trying to accomplish, trying to empathize, that’s the part that often gets ignored.

We love listening apps because they’re so rare. We’re delighted when Google translates an incoherently jumbled “wethrea n mst” into “weather in Amsterdam”. Google’s listening not only to what I’m mumbling, but hearing what I’m trying to say.

And note, for all the talk about privacy these days, doesn’t the metaphor of “listening” feel so much less creepy than “watching”?

It’s listening that will set your product apart.

Can we make site and apps that not only speak a user’s language, but can listen even better? Can your next product empathize with the user, listen to where they’re trying to go and help them get there faster?

When we can get the listening part right, we’ll have lovable products that create true fans.

Siri, you have a great voice, but sometimes it feels like you’re just not listening.