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The gripping inside story of the race to build conversationally capable computers
Chat with the author: ask your Alexa device to ‘open the voice computing book’
The next great technological disruption is coming.
The titans of Silicon Valley are racing to build the last, best computer that the world will ever need. They know that whoever successfully creates it will revolutionise our relationship with technology – and make billions of dollars in the process. They call it conversational AI.
Computers that can speak and think like humans do may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but they are rapidly moving towards reality. In Talk to Me, veteran tech journalist James Vlahos meets the researchers at Google, Amazon and Apple who are leading the way to a voice computing revolution. He explores how voice tech will transform every sector of society: handing untold new powers to businesses, upending traditional notions of privacy, revolutionising access to information, and fundamentally altering the way we understand human consciousness. And he even tries to understand the significance of the revolution firsthand – by building a chatbot version of his terminally ill father.
Vlahos’s research leads him to one fundamental question: What happens when our computers become as articulate, compassionate, and creative as we are?
‘Brilliant and essential . . . You’ll find insights and meaning on every page, and you’ll keep turning them. This book is dynamite.’ NICHOLAS THOMPSON, editor-in-chief of Wired
‘Conversational AI is a genuine paradigm shift in our experience with technology. Vlahos brings the whole story to life . . . A thoughtful and enjoyable read.’ TOM GRUBER, co-creator of Siri
‘The baton of disruption has been passed from the smart phone to voice, and Vlahos helps make sense of this tectonic shift.’ SCOTT GALLOWAY, author of The Four
‘Voice computing is revolutionising the way we interact with our devices. Talk to Me offers a road map showing how we got to this point and the opportunities and risks that lie ahead.’ MARTIN FORD, author of The Rise of the Robots
‘Well researched and reported, written by someone with a deep understanding of the tech itself.’ NEW YORK TIMES
‘James Vlahos has written an excellent book on how voice computing has become more and more of a growing presence in our everyday world.’ RAY KURZWEIL, author of The Singularity Is Near
Journalist Vlahos explores the increasingly ubiquitous presence of voice computing in his thought-provoking debut. He convincingly argues that the "latest technological disruption is happening, and it promises to be one of the most sizable and momentous that the world has ever seen." Vlahos orients the reader with a discussion of the recent developments in voice computing, culminating in Apple's creation of the Siri tool now integrated into every iPhone, before moving onto Amazon, Google, and Microsoft's competitive efforts. Vlahos also briefly covers earlier voiced technology, such as Thomas Edison's talking dolls of the 1870s and Eliza, a psychotherapist chatbot created in the 1960s. Evincing a talent for making the technical both easily understandable and intriguing, he explains how developers today are trying to further improve the user experience through machine learning, the process of "feeding vast amounts of data into computers so they can teach themselves how the world works." Finally, Vlahos examines recent applications, including Mattel's work encoding conversational abilities into its Hello Barbie doll, and potential privacy drawbacks. Readers will finish this timely book with a newfound appreciation for, and perhaps some apprehension toward, their favorite voice bot and the technological marvel it represents.