Natural Language

I’ve always wondered about the future of technology. While I’ve never been a flying car kind of guy, I do look forward to technology becoming more integrated in our lives.

A simple way I see this happening is being able to deal with my computers in natural language processing.

This dream is an old one. The foundations of NLP can be found back in the 1950s. Apple explored this topic with the “Knowledge Navigator” project. Here’s a video from Apple, outlining the concept:

Now, speaking with computers hasn’t panned out as well as the writers behind Star Trek would have liked. NLP is still mostly text-based.

Calendaring applications have gotten the most NLP love in recent months. With Lion, iCal gained NLP, and apps like Fantastical and Alert Notes have become quite popular.

These applications can take something like this string of text and turn it into an event or reminder:

Meeting with Jeff at 6PM Sunday

When adding events to a calendar, natural language is much easier than clicking around a bunch of menu items within iCal.

With lots of voice-command-related rumors floating around about iOS 5, I’m hoping natural language is about to take off in an all new way for iOS.

Android, of course, has offered voice-control for some time now. It’s the single thing I miss the most about carrying around a Motorola Droid. Being able to pick up my phone and dictate a text message, search command or something else wasn’t only futuristic, but made using my phone in places like the car much safer.

But the pretending to be Spock was way more fun.