Not the paradigm shift in email you imagined
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Q: It isn’t the paradigm shift I imagined. Why can't it be more proactive, faster, and understanding what I want?
I can perhaps help with some more details on how and why. Sure it is not the most amazing AI you could imagine but it is an amazing tool (in my opinion and feedback from many users - but not everyone).
One thing I would point out is that is may seem a bit slower to get through email than when using a screen based email client. There are 4 things to note:
1. it has a lot of help interjections at first, which do not repeat mostly and will become less chatty
2. it allows you to drive or do other activities with email reading being a background task with listening to the radio
3. for fully able and literate people it is typically impossible to speak faster than reading, but you can speed up the speech rate to get pretty close
4. it pauses for voice commands every so often - this can be switched off in preferences so it listens only when you tap the screen - both modes work perfectly well
Another thing is we are not aiming to understand you and have a conversation. That is way above our pay grade. Its what Google, Cortana and Alexa and Siri try to do and for the most part do not achieve (in my opinion) so we are not even attempting that. Instead we are using voice control which are one or two word commands. This is achievable with today's technology.
However there is a problem with interruptions - you need to wait for pauses or tap the screen to enable listening to give a command. Not being able to speak and listen at the same time is a limitation of today's tech, and with more research we might be able to solve it but its being currently worked on by the big guys, Microsoft has apparently got a research project showing promise. Our workaround is to touch the screen, and to pause for commands at salient points. You can disable the pausing for commands as mentioned.
Likewise we are not trying to do the holy grail of AI email - draft replies for you, alert you to important emails, and automatically trash all the rest. If you have used Office 365 or Gmail you will have seen attempts at these but most people ignore them or switch them off after losing one or two important emails - so we are not attempting to tackle smart suggestions but rather to provide voice control. We do have convenience features like being able to easily create filters that you control simply by saying "ignore sender" or "block sender" or "important sender".
Also there is a lot of customisation you can do in preferences, such as sorting and which headers to read out, which might work better depending on your desired way of working.
The paradigm shift is more in thinking about email as one single approach. This is an approach that can be done when you are not looking at a screen and works quite differently to the normal way, but does not replace it - but adding it to the mix and seeing the overall improvement is worthwhile.
What is Speaking Email?
An app for iPhone and Android that reads your email out loud to you. It intelligently extracts content from emails (minus the signatures, disclaimers and threads). And it lets you action your email - archive, mark-as-read, trash, flag, reply, or forward. It can be completely by voice command, or use the large on-screen buttons or full screen touch gestures.
Who is it for?
People with blindness or visual impairment. People who are busy and run out of time to get through their inbox. People who want to make productive use of time when driving between appointments.
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❝Your app is one of a handful that could assist people with visual problems and I strongly support your efforts.❞
Louis J Fox
Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration - University of Pittsburgh
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