HAL may well have been the inspiration behind Intel's first ever microprocessor, but the voice controlled robot from 2001: A Space Odyssey may remain a celluloid fantasy forever.
Scientists doing research in this area have said that computers just don't work this way, and that visual communication will always be king when dealing with technology.
For the past 20 years, boffins at the University of Maryland's Human/Computer Interaction Lab have been looking at whether the voice controlled, talking computers and robots depicted in many popular science fiction books and films are feasible.
But the reality is quite different to the Hollywood image of the technological future.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Ben Shneiderman, who heads up research at the lab, explained that the problem lies with memory.
Apparently, speech uses the same auditory memory as short term working memory, making it hard to think and speak at the same time. Using speech as a controller hogs too much memory and leaves little for thinking about anything else.
Visual controllers on the other hand, such as mice, monitors and keyboards, are manipulated using a different part of the brain, leaving the auditory space free for thinking.
Voice is the "the bicycle of user interfaces", according to Shneiderman. "It gets you there, but it's not going to carry the heavy load that visual interfaces will."
The researcher reckons that the future of user interfaces is in larger, information-abundant displays, which are not possible using speech as a medium.
Shneiderman explained that the mantra applied to information-seeking systems best designed for the human brain is: "Overview first, zoom and filter, then details-on-demand."
The synopsis for development on the lab's website reads: "If we can design systems with effective visual displays, direct manipulation interfaces and dynamic queries, then users will be able to responsibly and confidently take on ever more ambitious tasks."
"These tools are like telescopes and microscopes," said Shneiderman, likening the team's developments to those of Galileo and Leeuwenhoek in the 17th century. "They are a new way of viewing things you couldn't see before."
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