So the Ender movie is coming out. That's... well, it's coming out.
This had me thinking about the book series and one thing from there struck me as being more science than fiction nowadays (don't worry, no spoilers):
In the later books of the series Ender has a digital assistant called Jane. Jane takes the shape of small in-ear dongle - a "jewel", which Ender communicates with using voice commands.
Could we create - or at least approximate - Jane using existing consumer technologies today?
The only hardware for Jane in the book is the tiny gizmo in Enders ear. That's not going to work today, batteries and computing power still takes up more space than that.
The obvious platform for a wearable, omnipresent, digital assistant is a smartphone; a powerful, portable computer that is always connected to our collective hive mind, the Internet.
Over the recent years digital assistant-like software has taken great leaps forward. Voice recognition is actually becoming useful and voice synthesis is pretty remarkable these days.
We're looking for something really tiny that fits in the users ear without being too noticeable - one of the weaknesses of Google Glass is that it is very much in - and on - your face.
A search for "worlds smallest bluetooth headphones" reveals a few options, however finding one that's actually available for purchase is harder.
M007 looks like it is available for $12.78, though, and is pretty small, so we'll settle for that.
In order to prevent others from listening in, Ender has taught himself to subvocalize when talking to Jane. Current consumer technology isn't quite there yet.
The next best thing to subvocal communication is probably a throat microphone. Proper throat microphones (laryngophones) work by picking up the vibrations of your throat allowing you to speak very quietly and still have it picked up - even in noisy environments.
Looking around the only I could find, that seemed to fit the description (bluetooth and not an air-mic) is the Tactical Bluetooth Throat Microphone with a price tag of $168.
The future is now
So there we go, for less than $200 you can turn your smartphone into a science fiction style digital agent kinda like Enders Jane.
Admittedly, this solution has a few shortcomings not present in the book:
- Jane is always listening which tends to be hard on todays batteries. To overcome this some kind of activation command is usually employed - like touching the earpiece or stating "Ok Jane". I guess that would work fine.
- Also, Jane is proactive, acting indecently on things Ender might need to know before he asks for it. Google Now has some of this already, so it's not like it's impossible.
The interesting thing is, I've pretty much described Google Glass, just without the glasses part.