Thanks to JL for these nice links to four strange gesture videos:
‘Nonviolent Gestures’ (comments are in Dutch)
As you can see in the fifth and last video these ‘gestures’ are part of a kind of hippie cult around the concept of nonviolent communication. Some people even created a Hyve for it (which is a Dutch version of Facebook).
Almost needless to say, I believe that our perceptual sensitivity to insults prevents this initiative to avoid ‘violent communication’ from succeeding. An insult is in the eye of the beholder and not in the message as such. If a non-violent communicator speaks hippie-talk to me, I will still be on the look-out for any disrespectful or derogatory undertones, and possibly end up feeling insulted anyway. Vice versa, I would much rather get a cheery finger from a card buddy if I just beat him in a game, then a solemn statement about his feelings. For all its good intentions, this nonviolent communication seems born out of frustration with humanity and a certain arrogance in thinking human nature could be improved with a few easy guidelines.
So, mister Rosenberg, please take your touchy-feely, softspoken message, stuff it where the sun doesn’t shine, and go **** yourself. Or should I say, I understand you have problems with fairly normal human communication, I see that you think you have found a better way for us, but I do not share your problem nor do I believe in your solution.
Ah well, perhaps I shouldn’t have written anything about it. If he reads my opinion he will probably be insulted anyway, no matter how I phrase it. Or he just thinks I am too dense to understand him. Or worse still, I am ‘part of the problem, not of the solution’.
Training to Ensure Positive Outcomes. … Systematic professional training is strongly encouraged to maximize use of the unique features… The end user must be completely trained … to achieve positive outcomes. Managers of the system should … provide training for both end users and speakers … Additional time may be required to customize … Contact EnableMart for information about professional training opportunities.
This seems at first glance a fair bit of warning before you spend $6499 on an iCommunicator 5.0 kit. However, EnableMart sells the advised training for an additional $125 an hour, it is not free. I think this entire thing is a bit suspicious. I have worked with speech recognition, inlcuding the Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and it makes recognition errors (period). I have also fooled around with or seen most sign synthesis technology available today, and it is far from natural. And the same is true for speech recognition.
These technologies have yet to make good on their promises. If you ignore actual user experiences you can imagine it will solve many communication problems. But in practice, little errors cause big frustrations. Using speech recognition can be very tiring and irritating. It only works if the entire interaction is designed well and the benefits outweigh the cost.
Just imagine you are a deaf person using this iCommunicator with some teacher and a simple speech recognition error occurs: How is that error handled? Usually, when a speaker dictates to Dragon NaturallySpeaking he will spot the error and correct it. In this case your teacher will not spot the error (assuming he doesn’t monitor your screen) and the dialogue will continue with the error in place (unless there is enough context for you to spot the error and understand what the speaker actually said). A second problem is that you have to persuade people to wear your microphone to enter into a conversation with you. In a weird and cynical way you are asking them to suffer the same techno-torture as you. Not something you want to do more than twice a day, I imagine. And only with people whose affection you can afford to lose. The sign synthesis is fairly straightforward sign concatenation. A dictionary of 30.000 signs is accessed to get a video for every word. The videos are then played one by one, without any further sentence prosody. That means it looks terrible, like a gun firing signs at you. It also means it does not sign ASL, but signed English at best. Good enough, you might say, but I think the benefit of artificial signed English over typed text is not big. So, the signing is pretty much worthless. Jim the tell-sell guy further claims you can use it to improve your speaking. I do not believe speech recognition technology can give the proper feedback to improve articulation difficulties. It may be able to judge whether you pronounced something correctly (or at least similar to what it knows), but that’s about it. Although there is something in the specs about pronunciation keys, the video doesn’t show details. Well, I simply do not think a computer can reliably tell you what sort of error you made. So what does that leave? You can type text and your iCommunicator reads it out loud with text-to-speech. You can get that sort of software for the price of a cheap dinner from any of these sites.
Finally, the iCommunicator v5.0 lets you search for a word on Google with a single click. That’s pretty neat I admit. If you also think that that is worth a couple of thousand dollars, please contact me. I can supply an iBrowser v6.1 for only $2999, and will supply the necessary training for free. What the hell, I’ll even throw in a professional designer microphone v7.2 🙂 Unfortunately, the business case of the iCommunicator may actually rest on sales to hearing people who wish to reduce or entirely avoid the cost of interpreters:
HighBeam Encyclopedia: …The iCommunicator also enables government workers to provide equal access to information and services to the hearing impaired in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508…
Sometimes, you can only hope the future will prove you wrong.