I had already been talking to my mother about the iPad since she bought her MacBook, which she absolutely loves. She had said that she would like to get one and I had suggested that she might be better to wait a little while to see if a new model was going to be coming out possibly in April or May. I wasn’t too surprised when she messaged me to tell me that she had been into Birmingham to buy the iPad mini. She doesn’t listen to a word I say anyway. I think she is properly getting back at me from when I was a bad teenager not listening to her either. She is 74 and turning into a proper geek. She will be coming over to visit here in Catalonia and obviously we’ll be bringing her iPad mini with her and will probably want me to show her some bits and pieces of things that you can do with an iPad mini and not not just for playing iOS games.
Controlling the iPad with your voice – Siri
I really enjoy using Siri on my iPad and I wish I also had it available on my iPhone, but unfortunately I have the iPhone 4. I do have the possibility that I can still dictate into the iPhone 4 by using the DragonDictate dictation application, but it is not the same. A couple of days after my mother getting her iPad mini I was able to teach her how to use Siri. We started off by asking Siri one or two silly questions and also giving a couple of commands for him to work with. As you can imagine, my mother was absolutely delighted with having a computer that she could talk to and command with her voice. Even I am quite impressed sometimes with the accuracy and usefulness of this voice service on iOS. I really think that I must consider upgrading my iPhone 4 to an iPhone 5 later on this year if I can.
Dictation with Siri on the iPad or iPhone
When I’m using the dictation feature on my iPad by hitting the microphone button next to the spacebar on the keyboard, I’m able to use some of the commands available as when I’m using DragonDictate on my Mac. I can say things such as new line or new paragraph and any of the other punctuation features that I might want in my text. When you’re speaking clearly and and enunciating your words well enough, you will find that the accuracy will be pretty good and sometimes a good enough to be 100%. Certainly with some of the sentences that you use, you will find that there could be only one or two words that have not come out quite right. It is always a good idea to read through what you have dictated before sending off as a tweet or an email. The best thing to do is to do a double tap on the word that is not correct and to have it selected and then typing in the correct word. If there are two or three words together that have been incorrectly recognised, then you could select all of those and try to say again the words to replace them. Whether you decide to do the dictation again or use the keyboard to add a word or two where necessary, I am really sure that you will find using dictation is much faster than typing on the keyboard, especially if you are using it with the iPhone.
The natural language of Siri
When you think about it, it really is quite amazing that you can use natural language when talking to Siri. Most times, he she or it will understand what it is that you want and give you back a reasonable answer. You can also ask Siri some silly questions such as “What is the meaning of life?” And in this case you might well get back an answer which is possibly a serious answer and it is also equally likely that you get back an answer which is humorous or clever. So for instance the answer to that question could be 42, which you will understand as being funny if you have read the book ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. What you will also find is that it has been programmed so that you don’t always get the same answer to questions like that. I just asked that question of Siri and the answer that he came back with was :- “Life: a principle or force that is considered to underlying the distinctive quality of animate beings. I guess that includes me.” I asked the same question four times getting different answers and the last time he said “I give up”.
What is the next match played by Barcelona football club is a question that I asked Siri and it didn’t understand, but I tried again rephrasing the question a little bit and it worked. Then I asked when was the next game that Barcelona would be playing in the Champions League and it told me that it only was able to give me the recent Champions League results. When I asked for those latest Champions League results, I was told that it didn’t understand Champions League??. So we do have to remember that Siri is still in beta and in some ways has a long way to go before it is ready for the big time. Even so, it can still be extremely useful to use if you pick and choose what it is that you ask Siri to do.
Back to my mom and her iPad mini
My mom complains that she forgets things very easily and has told me that she has been to the classes in the Apple Store to learn things, the same things over and over. It is very good that the people in the Apple stores doing the lessons are extremely patient. What is nice though, when you consider the usefulness of the iPad mini to a 74-year-old lady, is that she can start using it really quickly and easily and really enjoy the process, getting a lot of fun from a tiny computer. I know that I love using my iPad and I will often be seen carrying it around with me in the house from one room to another. Most of the time I am consuming data from Twitter and Facebook, occasionally podcasts and videos, but you have to remember that the iPad is excellent as a device for creating content also. Same with the iPhone too when you are using the right applications and the right way of thinking when using the devices. For example, yesterday I created audio podcasts in the form of David Allen Audioboo’s and I also recorded a video to put into YouTube with my iPhone. I had the Audioboo’s upload directly from the iPhone and the video I brought onto my iMac back at home so that I could chop out a couple of sections before posting to the inter-web. I wonder if I will be able to get my mother interested in blogging or video blogging.