The computer tablets used by the crew in Star Trek Next Generation seemed almost fanciful when we first saw the show, but, by next year, it’s predicted the majority of US households will own a tablet.
So what other technologies from Star Trek are we likely to see emerge that will affect how Technical Authors and other technical communicators assist users in the future?
The most obvious Star Trek technology we’re likely to see soon is the universal translator, which decoded what people (and aliens) said in real-time. For £1.99, you can already get a voice translator for the iPhone, and the free Google Translate for Android app will translate written text via your smartphone’s camera.
Build this technology into Google Glass, and you’re getting close Star Trek’s communication badges.
Natural language interactions with technology
Some of the most challenging developments are likely to lie with how we might use natural language to interact with technology. In the Star Trek, the crew were able to talk to a computer in casual conversation. Below is a (very sexist I’m afraid) example from Star Trek TOS:
Apple’s Siri and Google’s Now give us the ability to make some basic natural language queries, and it’s likely their understanding of context will improve over time.
The end of writing?
There’s very little writing you see in Star Trek, so will we see writing becoming rarer? Will we do nearly everything by talking to a computer? The problem is, it’s a lot easier to assimilate information if it’s written down and if it’s succinct. The Captain’s log and other reports are likely to be long, rambling documents if the computer simply transcribes the words into text.
We’d need to become better at speaking more succinctly, improve our skills in listening back and editing our own voice, or have a device that could summarise our words without losing the meaning and accuracy of what we want to communicate.
What do you think?
What do you think Star Trek can tell us about the future of User Assistance? Use the comment box below to share your thoughts.