10 Things We Wish We Could Command With Our Voices

housewife with hair curlers bored with ironing
housewife with hair curlers bored with ironing

Voice technology has come a long way. Virtual assistants and audio-activated tools have modernized our lives in ways we could scarcely imagine 10 years ago, thanks to major advances in automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU). If we pause to think about it, that we can simply use our voices to make something happen is just plain cool.

We’ve partnered with Comcast to highlight some of the interesting possibilities for the future of voice technology that we hope are within reach. Watch out, Jetsons, we’re coming for your world.

1. Doors

While most of us work in offices or shop in stores with sleek, automated entrances and exits, the process of getting into and out of our homes isn’t quite so state-of-the-art. But the keyless movement is coming for our front doors -- sooner than you think: smart locks hit the market in the past few years, enabling home entry through a Bluetooth-enabled app. Now if we could only get it to recognize our voices, we’d be all set.

2. Elevators

Um, do you know where that guy’s hands have been? We didn’t think so. Negotiating an elevator’s buttons can be harrowing for the germaphobic among us, which makes it the perfect device to operate via hands-free commands (especially since it doesn’t look like those uniformed operators are poised to make a comeback anytime soon). But just make sure you find an elevator that understands your accent.

3. Kitchen Appliances

When we wake up in the morning, bleary-eyed and half-asleep, we’re not exactly killing the breakfast-prep game (ugh, so many buttons to find and press). This “voice-interactive” coffeemaker solves only one problem in the kitchen. If we could use our voices to bypass the array of knobs and dials on our stoves and ovens, too, the world would be a safer place.

4. The Fridge

Smart refrigerators are actually a thing (this one sends alerts to your phone when you’re running low on beer). Now we need to take it a step further, enabling fridges to monitor the freshness of our food. We would very much like to know if eating that leftover guacamole is going to leave us on the bathroom floor at 3 a.m., cursing our existence.

5. Dog Training Collars

Man’s best friend can be frustrating at times, particularly when he goes to town on our best leather shoes (again). Voice-enabled dog training collars and harnesses could be a big help, using haptic technology to reinforce our commands. Though if we’re honest, Fido is probably going to get away with his shoe trick again. He’s just so cute!

6. Surgical Robots

Robotic technology is already a major presence in operating rooms all over the world. And doctors have actually been experimenting with voice-operated machines that can adjust cameras and other tools since the 1990s. But we’ve yet to fully merge these two lanes of medical innovation. What if Berlin’s leading oncologist could direct a tumor removal in Manhattan via Skype? These kinds of interconnected ORs could ultimately save more lives.

7. TV Commercials

Imagine it. You’re watching the latest episode of “The Voice,” and during commercial break, you see an ad for that tablet you’ve heard so much about. What if buying it was as easy as saying so out loud? We’re getting closer to that reality; in the latest upgrade to Apple TV, Siri is working hard to enhance your viewing experience by automatically rewinding 15 seconds and adding captions when you ask about what was just said. We still have a ways to go before we get instant, call-and-response home shopping, though.

8. Restaurant Menus

A half-hour into Sunday brunch at a busy restaurant, the overworked server still hasn’t come and take drink orders. Thanks to new order-expediting apps, this might be a less common occurrence in the near future. We hope voice-enabled menus are waiting just around the corner; it doesn’t get more convenient than that.

9. Dating Apps

We might have thought that online dating literally could not get any simpler with the advent of Tinder’s now-ubiquitous swiping model, but why not make it even easier? If we could just tell our apps to pass on all of the unsuitable prospects, our hands would be free for a much-needed glass of pinot noir and Chinese takeout (for one, sigh).

10. Heavy Machinery

OK, operating a two-ton machine with only a few spoken words may seem like a potentially problematic idea, but think of THE ABSOLUTE POWER.

It’s exhilarating to think about where innovations in voice technology might take society next. As a one-stop provider of Internet, TV and phone services, Comcast understands the importance of seamless, speedy communications, and knows how to deliver the latest in connectivity solutions for its users.