Today is the age of the mobile Internet. Rapid growth and proliferation of wireless networks and associated with them mobile devices, allows the user to get relevant content virtually anywhere and at any time.
However, the traditional (visual) form, in which the Internet content is provided, is not always practical with mobile devices. A lot of the content comes as text, tables, images, video clips that require continuous visual contact. In addition, networking and browsing requires manual operation.
It is my understanding that mobile means "in motion", "on the fly", i.e. just the way one uses his or her mobile phone for talking. One has no need to stop, concentrate on the screen. Instead one just holds the phone to the ear or uses hands-free talking to receive and transmit information. The mobile Internet as it exists now requires visual attention focused on the screen and manual control. The need to find a visual reference for the receipt and transmission of information does not allow the user to combine it with such tasks as driving a car, walking or performing mechanical labour.
Until recently, the domination of visual content has been justified by the weak development base, low memory devices, and low-speed data channels. However, modern technical basis allows for storage and instant wireless transmission of large amounts of information in various forms, so that the usual array of visual information can be supplemented with large amounts of audio data processing of which does not require visual attention.
The essence of the idea is as follows: the user receives information in the form of audio playback of audio files stored on a remote server or on the mobile device. In addition, the audio content can be automatically generated with the help of special programs on the basis of text files according to users’ request. The user controls the flow of content through audio commands and queries, or creates new information in the form of audio files placed in the memory of the mobile device or on a remote server. This architecture is similar to a radio channel with feedback, which provides any information on user’s demand. Henceforth I will refer to this system as Audio Internet (AI).
AI would look like the traditional Internet, the only difference being that it does not require screen for browsing and can be operated through voice commands. AI frees not only our eyes, but our hands. This arrangement provides us complete mobility, the ability to simultaneously perform a number of necessary actions, such as driving, cooking, walking, so who knows what else, from morning washing and finishing evening walk with the dog.
To date, the Internet has accumulated a huge amount of audio information in a variety of audio files, most of which are in the public domain. These audio files should form the basis for AI. As for the commercial component in AI, its potential is not inferior to the potential of the traditional Internet.
What kind of information transmitted in the form of audio content should of primary interest to the consumer?
- Entertainment content in the form of music, audio books, and radio programs.
- Cognitive information in the form of news releases, encyclopedic reference, audio guides, etc.;
- Training information in the form of training and development programs, quizzes;
- Social information in the form of audio-blogging, audio-chats, audio-forums;
- Personal (confidential) information in the form of audio-mail, Internet-telephone, audio-calendar, and so on;
- Business information in the form of audio-sites of various companies and organizations, audio card, etc.
In fact, this is a whole new industry on the Internet, which will provide an impetus for creation of new software products, audio browsers, audio search engines, audio e-mail programs and other. AI will also require a constant supply of new audio content.
I am sure that the AI will be consumed by the majority of mobile phone users, and at some point, when the wireless access to the Internet will become ubiquitous, it could replace the very cellular telephone service. At the initial stage the AI will connect those who are already actively using the mobile Internet, and those who use mobile audio players.
The AI users will be young and middle-aged people who lead an active life and have a constant need to remain updated. Then they will be joined by older people, including those who currently do not actively use the Internet. This category of consumers should be attracted by the relative ease of use, which does not require any technical skill or knowledge. The AI should greatly simplify the dialogue between man and computer, bringing it to the level of human interaction.
In addition, the AI can play a huge role in the social life of many people.
Another potential beneficiaries of the AI are people with special needs. Although some Internet resources are adapted for blind or visually impaired people, their choice of content is heavily limited and access is often too complicated. The introduction of AI will allow them to enjoy the Internet content and services on a par with with the rest of us. This issue is especially significant in view of the fact that there are 37 million blind people in the world, and another 124 million have very poor eyesight and their numbers are constantly growing. Another group of people that might benefit from AI are bodily disabled, who may experience difficulties in manipulating input devices, such as a mouse or a keyboard. For them replacing the manual control by a voice command system is a must.
In addition, the use of the traditional Internet requires a certain level of literacy. Unfortunately, in the world today there are about 800 million illiterate adults and 113 million illiterate children who do not attend school. For them, the AI can be a window into the modern world.
Ongoing access to a variety of content and a simple audio interface can radically change the way unskilled, manual labor is performed and will allow people to develop and grow, regardless of their level of education, type of activity, social group and age.