Social networks have gotten a lot of play in recent years. What about social devices? I've been thinking about whether/how the nature of computer interfaces is changing—specifically, becoming less passive and more “social.”
My conversations with academics in Stanford's Department of Communications, and the research they've guided me toward, leads me to believe that we are once again at the edge of a shift in the way we communicate. For a variety or reasons, PCs and other computers in cars, mobile devices, etc., are making increased use of voice-driven, natural language interfaces or avatars, moving computing away from the traditional mode of passive information processing toward a more social, "person to person" interaction.
Some quick examples. Google's VP of Search gave a recent interview at Le Web during which she said that Google was exploring a more conversational interface that would allow users to actually ask Google questions out loud as though conversing with a person. Although it has met with (comic) resistance in the past, a trail of Microsoft patents going back ten years shows how serious the company is about developing a social interface, complete with voice, expressions, and gestures. As much as twenty-five percent of Microsoft's research efforts reportedly involve artificial intelligence. Even the U.S. government has gotten into this game: the U.S. Army’s virtual recruiter, SGT Star, responds to questions out loud, changes moods, makes jokes, etc. According to developer statistics, SGT Star has responded to over two million questions since his debut in 2006. Read more about Devices As Themselves Social