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Is this the End of Typing? The Internet's Next Billion Users Want Video and Voice ( 230

An anonymous reader shares a WSJ article: The internet's global expansion is entering a new phase, and it looks decidedly unlike the last one. Instead of typing searches and emails, a wave of newcomers -- "the next billion," the tech industry calls them -- is avoiding text, using voice activation and communicating with images. They are a swath of the world's less-educated, online for the first time thanks to low-end smartphones, cheap data plans and intuitive apps that let them navigate despite poor literacy. Incumbent tech companies are finding they must rethink their products for these newcomers and face local competitors that have been quicker to figure them out. "We are seeing a new kind of internet user," said Ceasar Sengupta, who heads a group at Alphabet's Google trying to adapt to the new wave. "The new users are very different from the first billion." A look at Megh Singh's smartphone suggests how the next billion might determine a new set of winners and losers in tech. Mr. Singh, 36, balances suitcases on his head in New Delhi, earning less than $8 a day as a porter in one of India's biggest railway stations. He isn't comfortable reading or using a keyboard. That doesn't stop him from checking train schedules, messaging family and downloading movies. "We don't know anything about emails or even how to send one," said Mr. Singh, who went online only in the past year. "But we are enjoying the internet to the fullest." Mr. Singh squatted under the station stairwell, whispering into his phone using speech recognition on the station's free Wi-Fi. It is a simple affair, a Sony Corp. model with 4GB of storage, versus the 32GB that is typically considered minimal in the developed world. On his screen are some of the world's most popular apps -- Google's search, Facebook's WhatsApp -- but also many that are unfamiliar in the developed world, including UC Browser, MX Player and SHAREit, that have been tailored for slow connections and skimpy data storage.
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Is this the End of Typing? The Internet's Next Billion Users Want Video and Voice

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  • No, they don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:25PM (#54966575)

    Watching video sucks when I want the news quickly.

    • Re:No, they don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:32PM (#54966669)

      Watching video sucks when I want the news quickly.

      Indeed. I always skip articles that have videos embedded. I can read a lot quicker than a video plays.

      • Re:No, they don't. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @02:28PM (#54967339)
        I'm annoyed by news articles that have ONLY video, and no text description. Especially articles whose headlines seem to be globally important. For example: on CNN's website, an article headline reads "North Korea says that US will 'Pay Dearly'".
      • by sycodon ( 149926 )

        Nothing is more fucking annoying than clicking a link toa news story and seeing just the headline and a fucking video.

    • Re:No, they don't. (Score:5, Informative)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:33PM (#54966691)

      Well more then news. What really gets me pissed is searching for information on how to do something, other then getting a good document where I can skip a lot of the intro stuff which I already know, and get to the segment I need some detail in. I have to watch the video showing how to open a file, scroll down....

    • To a degree this is true but I'm beginning to wonder if written language was just a stepping stone to some other medium for storing and disseminating knowledge. If I want to know how to do something I go to youtube. I don't really read for enjoyment anymore but instead listen to audio books. I still read (comments obviously) and tech specs but I do wonder if the future isn't some sort of narrow form of memory or story that we provide to others.

      It isn't like written language was entirely a good thing.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        If I want to know how to do something I go to youtube.

        If I want to know how to do something, I look really hard for a web page with written instructions. The last thing I want is to have to listen to somebody's idiot background music while they fumble around 'doing' something that could be described in a few bullet points.

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        Written language evolved from drawing pictograms on cave walls to remember hunting strategies [], to writing on clay tablets [] to keep track of money, legal agreements, then finding that writing on paper is far easier and allowed knowledge to be shared in the most compact physical means possible. []

        Perhaps a USB stick full of PDF documents is now more compact than a box of books. Then Youtube and other online videos replace the need for the USB stick.

        • Well, as long as all the infrastructure and equipment needed to access the knowledge is still around, working, connected, and format-compatible...

      • by epine ( 68316 )

        The Greeks and other ancients had wonderful methods of memory that were very impressive and lamented to the death of these when written language began to flourish.

        Those 'impressive' Greeks would fall off their pedestals if they had half an inkling of the amount of knowledge the average broadly read and well-informed IT geek of today carries around as a matter of course.

        The Library of Alexandria had somewhere between 40,000 and 400,000 scrolls.

        As of 8 August 2017, there are 5,456,325 articles in the English

    • Usually, I read the news, and listen to other things. It does me no good when news agencies assume that a video--perhaps even an autoplaying video-- can replace text.

    • Text to speech means automatic closed captioning. A.I. and deep learning means evaluation of content to create text-based summaries and categorization topics.

      • Good luck finding a video on YouTube of any complexity whose automatic captions are correct. And good luck finding a site that lets you view the automatic captions alone instead of viewing the video.

  • Sounds made up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:28PM (#54966623)

    I've never met anyone in any age group who wants voice or video for most of their consumption. There are exceptions: how-to videos are usually more helpful than how-to directions, and voice is nice when you want to hear how something is pronounced. But you would have to be brain dead to want to favor those, as they cannot be searched, can't be digested at work and you can't skip around in them to find the little bit you need without having to take in the large amounts of bullshit, fluff, marketing and distraction.

    This sounds like astroturfing, burn everyone associated with it.

    • I prefer how to Directions. How to videos can be a supplement. But normally when I look up on how to do something, I am already 90% there, and I am just running into a small roadblock.

    • Well, the premise is people that cannot read or write making up the next billion.

      For me, I HATE video or audio presentation of information; it is too information-sparse and modal. Strong visual presentations can be quite effective, and I do understand that verbalization of information can be helpful to many people, but if this is the direction we are going I will quite happily disconnect from the internet.

    • The thirteen year olds in marketing departments who run the world have decided that the only way to shift more product is to do away with text on the web. This will lead to the entire world repurchasing all of their computing devices and the depreciation of all the old shit like newspapers and textbooks. However this is a bigger ask than replacing drop-down menus with ribbon bars and I predict said thirteen year olds are about to be encouraged to shuffle off this mortal coil by "the resistance".

      On the other

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How many people have you met that are illiterate?

      How many people in the world are illiterate?

  • not happening (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't work in an office environment. Too much noise.

  • Voice is great on something like a Google Home or Alexa where you want an answer but not sitting in front of a keyboard.

    Although then, voice recognition technology still sucks eggs. Normally takes about 4 or 5 tries to get Alexa to understand what you ask her. I'm sure with time voice recognition will eventually be acceptable, but it's still in it's infancy.

    If you have a keyboard infront of you, I can't imagine anyone not preferring to use that, it's much more accurate... more private... and quieter. Can

    • by religionofpeas ( 4511805 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:37PM (#54966729)

      Talking to a computer may be a good way to enter the chemical structure of transparent aluminum, though.

      • Talking to a computer may be a good way to enter the chemical structure of transparent aluminum, though.

        It always amused me that Scotty, who had apparently never touched a keyboard and mouse (let alone would have had no familiarity with the software used in the 1980s) was able to pick up that keyboard after learning voice wouldn't work, and smash away and within 5 seconds he had come up with the blue-print for transparent aluminum despite not having any knowledge of touch-typing or the software being used.

        It's like when hackers on TV shows come across a network they've never seen before... smash a few keys an

        • by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:50PM (#54966921)

          It always amused me that Scotty, who had apparently never touched a keyboard and mouse (let alone would have had no familiarity with the software used in the 1980s) was able to pick up that keyboard after learning voice wouldn't work, and smash away and within 5 seconds he had come up with the blue-print for transparent aluminum despite not having any knowledge of touch-typing or the software being used.

          I haven't seen that in a while. But I thought he started out doing the two finger hunt an peck thing and progressed quickly. I took it as showing that Scotty was extremely adept at picking things up. Plus it's a movie, would you have stayed in the theater if it spent 45 minutes of him poking at a keyboard?

          It's like when hackers on TV shows come across a network they've never seen before... smash a few keys and they're instantly connected to everything on the network and instantly know how to operate it all.

          Don't forget the spinning graphics with no command line at all.

    • The problem with voice recognition is that we abandoned the command-line interface too early, and that we have been hiding the concept of "commands" deeper and deeper behind our mythological "direct manipulation" interface. Because we've tricked users into believing that they are manipulating objects rather than giving linguistic commands to the computer (gestures are part of sign language, and gestures are a huge part of modern interfaces), we haven't prepared people to apply the same logic to voice comman
      • Teaching people to use computers is still a more achievable task than teaching computers to understand people

        The difference though: Once someone figures out computers accurately understanding natural language; then it's a technology that will be everywhere in a couple of years. Like strong AI it only needs to be invented once; versus having to continually train new users in the arcane.

    • I'm sure with time voice recognition will eventually be acceptable, but it's still in it's infancy.

      Like the rest of AI disciplines, it has been in its infancy for over 50 years now. Some infancy.

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by silverkniveshotmail. ( 713965 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:37PM (#54966731) Journal
    Why do submissions like this get approved? Typing isn't going away because some poor guy in India is whispering to a cheap phone.
    • Why do submissions like this get approved? Typing isn't going away because some poor guy in India is whispering to a cheap phone.

      Tell that to the generation too lazy to type, or even learn how to.

      There's a reason all of these "personal assistant" devices in the home are voice powered.

  • Seriously, this is just some push by marketroids who sold a bill of goods to media execs. They think it will let them fire journalists and print hosts and replace them with cheaper H2-B and H1-B workers and recent AV grads.

    But we don't want video everywhere.

    I hate stupid articles that start playing videos. I hate news showing as video when I'd rather read it and skim it.

    Ad funny cartoons. We like that.

    But this is so fake, and just an attempt to cut costs by firing existing print journalists and replacing th

  • An office full of people using speech recognition won't get anything done. While the kids might be starting to realize that since they never learned how to type they can actually speak faster than they can type, they will also have to learn that they can't all be using speech recognition simultaneously in the same room.
  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:43PM (#54966821) Homepage Journal

    I should also point out, as someone with five languages, that you can usually work fairly well in written versions of a language you didn't grow up with, but that having to listen to audio of a language, with accents, that is not your own, is far more difficult.

    A lot of people who prefer text are not native speakers of the text. They can either google translate it, or understand 95 percent of it, if it's text, but with audio and video they tend to have to listen to it 2-3 times before they understand. Have you ever watched Mandarin or Russian broadcasts where the speaker is talking quickly?

  • A teeming underclass only capable of reading and "writing" an ideogrammatic language whose verbalization is developed by an AI.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:50PM (#54966931)

    In Science fiction, we have voice control and these 3d holographic displays... It makes the future seem all cool and such however in real life it would just suck.

    Voice control is mostly used as a way to push the narrative so the actor can act and we get an immediate response back.
    "Computer give me all references of Darmok"
    "Computer give me all references of Tenargra"

    vs Select count(*) cnt, Location from UltraBigDB where data like '%Darmok%' or data like '%Tenargra%'
    group by Location
    having count(*) > 1
    order by 1 desc

    In these rooms there is so much cross chatter work would be a noisy place.

    Then you have those 3d holographic displays. Looks cool on TV, and that way we can see the data, with the actors face, however having text on your normal background, will be real annoying with all the moving stuff.
    While video has its place, so does normal text that we can read and write too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Temba, his arms wide.

    • I was always a fan of the quick hard type instructions then stamp the enter key, no matter what the procedure call is still hard type instruction than stamp the enter key.

      Cypher: Well you have to. The image translators work for the construct program. But there’s way too much information to decode the Matrix. You get used to it. II don’t even see the code. All I see is blonde, brunette, red-head.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      "Computer give me all references of Darmok"
      "Computer give me all references of Tenargra"

      "Alexa, open nearby planets' history and find 'Darmok' or 'Tanagra', preferably together." The computer might translate this into a full-text search query represented as follows, with Boost commands tweaking relevance ordering:

      In articles about mythology or history of planets in this system
      Find 'Darmok' OR 'Tanagra'
      Boost 'Darmok' AND 'Tanagra'
      Boost 'Darmok' NEAR 'Tanagra'
      Boost spatial tags close to this location

    • It solves a narrative problem as much as anything. A lot easier for audience to understand having the actor say something and the computer answer than to show typed in stuff... this usually looks pretty lame.
  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @01:52PM (#54966953)
    The difference stems from
    • The maximum speed at which your brain can process audio and convert it to information is fairly low. For myself, it's about 2x real-time. Any faster and I can't make out the words. 1.7x is a more comfortable limit. By contrast, your brain is much quicker at processing visual information. I can read about 5x faster than I can listen to someone talk. And I know lots of people can read even faster (my brain tries to insert inflection to give the text more context and slows me down, probably a result of me playing the piano so inserting "feeling" comes naturally).
    • You cannot "zoom out" of audio to get a big picture overview of what's being said. You can zoom out (literally) of images, and view a bunch of thumbnail images at once, quickly find the image you're looking for, and zoom in to the full size image to see more detail. Likewise you can skim text to figure out the content of each paragraph, and quickly skip ahead or behind to a paragraph with the info you're looking for. You can't do this with audio (and by extension, video whose information is conveyed via audio). The best you can do is fast-forward, then play a segment at normal (or 2x speed) so you can listen to the audio, guess if you haven't fast-forwarded enough or need to rewind, and repeat. That process is much slower than locating relevant information visually.
    • Related to the previous bullet, audio is one dimensional. That is fine when you want to listen to the whole thing. But it hampers searches. Text and images are two dimensional, allowing you to scan along an extra dimension if you wish to skip over a lot of stuff quickly. (Though it can become a detriment if you need to review everything.)

    For these reasons audio and video are fine for entertainment, but they are vastly inferior to text and images as methods of information conveyance. The only times they become really useful for learning is when used as a third bandwidth channel to augment text and images. e.g. Professor writing text and drawing images on the chalkboard, while explaining things orally. Or when your vision is otherwise occupied. e.g. Listening to podcasts while driving.

  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @02:03PM (#54967073)
    Americans, as far as I can tell, are already there. I know plenty of people who don't have computers. If they can't do something on their phone, then they don't do it. In my experience, 20-something Americans largely have trouble with typing, and of course, basic spelling and grammar.
    • But do they use text or voice? I suspect most of them in the USA are still tapping stuff out with text. This story claims that a wide swath overseas are illiterate enough that text isn't even an option for them. Personally, I doubt this is the future. I suspect that the access to the phone will instead increase the literacy rate, rather than invalidate reading. We'll have to wait and see.
    • I am guessing you have a very very limited subset of experience with 20-something Americans.
  • Oh god, fuck UC Browser. I've had to put it on a blacklist in my JavaScript online bug reporter, because it cannot handle even the most basic of tasks without throwing a shitfit and generating countless error logs sent back to the servers. Searching around online to even find out what the browser was, and all I got was other devs complaining about the same issue before even discovering WHAT the thing even was!

  • It shows how much progress India has made, how much wage inflation has happened and why India will not be the go to place for the low end phone bank outsourcing.

    My first job out of college with a brand spanking new BTech degree was in the Ministry of Defense as a Scientist B. At that time it was a "gazzetted officer" position, meaning my appointment will be published in the official government Gazette as an officer. I had the right to sign my name using green ink and "attest" the authenticity of documents

    • Hw long ago are you talking about, and have you accounted for inflation? It may not be as much of an improvement in real spending power as you think...

      • Indian rupee has inflated six times compared to the dollar. 11 INR/USD to 66 INR/USD. But there is real income growth in US Dollar terms.

        It was back in 1984. Ask this question, are the minimum wage workers in America earning the same number of dollars a rookie lieutenant was earning? There is a PDF of USArmy pay scales of 1984 []

        Assuming O for Officers and W for Warrant Officers and E for Enlisted men, The lowest basic pay seems to be 1150$ a month. 302$ a month for quart

  • No you aren't using the internet to it's fullest if you're limiting yourself to just what you can get to on a smartphone with voice to text.

    There is a lot you can do on a smart phone but there is even more you can't.

    It's like someone on dialup today saying "we are enjoying the internet to the fullest." Sure you can still communicate with it but you're pretending a lot of things just don't exist.

  • "They are a swath of the world's less-educated, online for the first time thanks to low-end smartphones, cheap data plans and intuitive apps that let them navigate despite poor literacy..."

    In a strange twist of irony, the 21st century will bring forth the world's most advanced technology, and will ensure that it is so idiot-proof, a fucking caveman could operate it.

    Welcome to the future. Intelligence and skill, is optional.

    • Well sure, I mean look at what the crossbow and arquebus did for warfare: a peasant taught how to load and fire is nearly as lethal as a guy that trained his whole life with a longbow. Or the difference in skill needed to operate a table saw versus a hand saw.
  • "cheap data plans"

    So not Americans.....

  • the last thing I need is every mutterance in my cubicle being recorded

  • Sigh (Score:2, Informative)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) *

    As a quickreader of some sorts, (550 words a minute) I'd absolutely hate it when that billion illiterates will format the content with stupid videos, where self-important people need 15 minutes to come to the fucking point.

  • obligatory xkcd (Score:4, Informative)

    by chiefcrash ( 1315009 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @02:25PM (#54967299)
  • Game Videos (Score:5, Funny)

    by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @02:31PM (#54967363)

    "Hmm, I am having problems with this puzzle, I will check youtube for a playthrough on how to solve it."
    *finds playthrough, clicks on video*
    *close tab*

  • is that it makes machine translation a hell a lot more reliable.

    • But text is practical in fewer situations. And if you do machine translation of video, you can cut out a lot of competitors who currently lack the technology to do it reliably. This is a market about differentiating yourself against your competition, not about forcing the user down the path that is easiest for you to support.

  • No, it's not. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What people who are deaf? What about people who are unable to speak? What about people who can speak but choose not to -- such as being in a meeting and needing those network stats right this instant?

    Advertisers want us to to 100% video, all the time. Advertisers want us to do 100% speech, all the time. Very few of us in the real world want either of those things.

  • This is a very skewed article IMHO. All I came away from it was that a very minimum age porter in a subway and airport has a bunch of tech in his hand with todays internet where everything is mobile friendly and at his finger-tips. There is ZERO barrier to entry to get in on using top technical apps, trends or be in-the-loop. This guy is 100% right: he doesn't need to know SHIT about home-row or sending a well articulated e-mail to a boss about xyz topic. So of course typing on a keyboard is useless; i

  • Like Church Latin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @03:00PM (#54967635) Homepage Journal
    If you want to maintain an illiterate underclass of passive users, then by all means keep degrading mainstream Internet into speech and video. Let us 1337 h4x0rs be the only ones who can read and write. Somebody needs to maintain and develop this damn thing anyway.
  • No, it's not the end of typing.

  • The question, "Is this the End of Typing?" doesn't match with the story. From what I can tell from the summary, the story seems to be about the fact that there are masses of illiterate people getting online, and it may be better to communicate with those people using audio and video, since they can't read. Also, a lot of these people are in developing countries where infrastructure isn't great, so companies wanting to service them need to find ways to provide an audio/video interaction in that context. O

    • I can only assume that it will help them become literate. My pre-school-age children know some/all of their letters but the older one is still only on the cusp of reading. Trying to use tablets and ipods has only improved their literacy as it motivates them to develop the skills to find what they want in the devices. The older one is also starting to teach herself Spanish from videos and games she downloads.
  • Sound and video is just less convenient. It may be good for illiterate people, those without fingers or when you need to make a long detailed conversation, but it requires an environment where you may talk and listen to sound (unlike most open space environment or public place where it's either too calm or too noisy to hold a vocal conversation) and it's requires answering right now. The greatest thing about text messages is that it is direct but doesn't require immediate and complete attention. It is also
  • Even the so-called "educated" internet users can't write anymore. What they write is littered with L33t-sp34k, "teen speak", shortened words, words turned into acronyms not to mention errors, mistakes and typos. It's also already polluted by images, i.e. emojis.

    The end of typing on the internet began when non-computer-nerds started using the Internet.

    • As someone more than half a century old I can tell you the hand written notes of the average person in the past weren't so great either.

  • Typing, done well, is fantastic as a means to communicate to a computer. At present many who can't be bothered to learn to type well type with poor technique, slowly, and potentially risking injury. For these, voice input would be a very good idea.

  • With my disabilities, I don't want to talk and hear due to my impediments. I like to type and read to socialize.

  • Question: "How do I do X?"
    A 4 line - do this, do that, click here, done. Not good enough.
    "Do you have a video for that?"
  • Oddly enough this was predicted by Neal Stephenson in "The Diamond Age." Where only the educated could read, while the poor still had access to technology but ironically enough not education, and so ended up using a simple pictograph system of information. That tech can spread faster than education is a sad prediction to come true.

Do not underestimate the value of print statements for debugging.