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Dan Bricklin's Log

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VisiCalc co-creator Dan Bricklin chronicles his life in the computer world with pictures, text, and commentary.
Updated: 29 min 30 sec ago

Voice and Command Line User Interfaces

Sun, 2018-01-28 20:42
I have been seeing the increasing popularity of voice-controlled "smart speakers" like the Amazon Alexa series, including heavy use among many of my close relatives and even their very young children. Attending a Gartner conference, I watched analyst Jason Wong gave a presentation about "voice first" apps, showing an example from Rhino Fleet Tracking and explaining Amazon's recently announced "Alexa for Business" offering. This was something that could be used for internal business applications, not just for personal home use. Hmm. Internal business use if my area of interest as CTO at Alpha Software.

By the time I reached the airport for the ride home, I had checked out some of the Alexa documentation and saw that it would be pretty easy to hook up Alexa to query a database to explore this area. After a little work back home, I found that connecting to the REST API of our new Alpha TransForm mobile forms data capture system would be even easier. I soon had a demo and made a short minute and a half video "Simple business app with Alexa":

Video on YouTube

I then got to discuss the video with a variety of analysts and others and think about this area a lot. One thing I was struck with was the similarities between the Alexa-style voice input and traditional Command Line Interfaces (CLI). CLI, first popularized in the computer world back in the 1960's or so and continuing today in Linux, Windows, etc., has always appealed to many professional developers despite the advent of GUI and touch-based interfaces. There is something special there. Perhaps voice and CLI share some attributes that would explain the rapid rise of its popularity in smart speakers. I decided to write an essay exploring this.

The essay I came up with is "Revenge of the CLI: A transformation through voice and AI". It's in the Writings section.
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