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Unfit for command?

I’ve just been reading a commercial briefing note – mainly because I’m paid to do that sort of thing.

Anyway, the exciting news is that corporate giants Walmart and Google plan to join forces to break into the voice-shopping market. I know, I could hardly contain myself.

So-called ‘virtual retailing’ - or shopping by voice command - is quite a big thing in the States. The genre is currently dominated by Amazon who are pushing the concept over here.

I guess that its all part of an inevitable consumer convenience trend, but i have to say it’s one that I’m not particularly inclined to join. That primarily due to my poor experience to date of talking with appliances.

I switched off the ‘Siri’ voice thingummy on my iPad. It was just too brimming with helpful suggestions for my liking. I didn't understand the solutions either, if I'm honest.

To someone of my decrepit years, it was a a bit like coping with a chopsy reincarnation of the paper-clip character that used to pop up on the screen with older versions of Windows. Don’t get me wrong. I actually appreciate all that on-board technology can do for me. For example, I like the fact that my car is factory fitted with a hands-free facility. Where the problems begin is when the smarty-pants device translates my perfectly enunciated command as "Call Ding Bada Bo Diddle".

This absurd situation is made worse by angst-ridden moments as I wait to see if the call has gone through correctly or if I’m required to explain to whoever picks up that it was actually my car that called the wrong number.

I did wonder if it was my Swansea accent, but that doesn’t explain how the damned thing can reach “Julio Maria Martinez” or “Angharad Meredith” without a glitch yet insist there’s no listing for "Alien Custody" - even though I said, "Alan Cassidy".

And regardless of the fact that it’s patently at fault, the software then insists on trotting out a list of things I could have said. This advice is delivered in the same tolerant tone used to explain the need to wash your hands to s four-year old.

To my shame, I’ll admit that it’s at this point that I live up to my car’s low expectations and shout some variation of “Don't [expletive] tell me what to do, you useless piece of [expletive] junk".

Such outbursts not only test my blood pressure medication but understandably draw sudden glances from other drivers. Strangely though, some of the looks imply a worrying degree of personal empathy.

But let me tell you, the phone’s intransigence is nothing compared to the snotty attitude I used to get from my old satnav. Things finally came to a head when I refused to take the fourth exit left, as instructed, because that would have meant going back the way I came.

The satnav took this affront as the final straw and stopped working. As far as I know, it’s still sulking on the shelf where I left it.

It may be that the future will be one of driverless cars and automated lorry convoys but I very much doubt that I’ll be the one in the driving seat. I’m clearly unfit for command.

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