Friday, February 26, 2010

Use Your Voice 2

I turned my TV on one night last week to settle in for an evening at the Olympics. As I pressed 4 on my remote, to change from NY1 to NBC, I heard a slight little “pop” and my picture was gone. Ugh! I held my breath, hoping it was just a temporary cable, or network, problem that would rectify itself.

I started changing channels, the cable guide at the bottom of the screen, which I can barely read with my nose pressed up against it, was changing to reflect that I was changing channels. The only thing on the screen was the channel guide – no picture, no sound. Ugh!

Lately, I’ve been noticing that many people are afraid of their TV. I’ve seen mothers completely freaked out by the sight of the clicker in the hands of their child, fearing one wrong touch of a button and the TV may be out for days. I’ve seen grown men cry when they accidentally knock the cable off line during a football game and have to call the cable company and have the nice lady walk them through the reconnect. I’ve been told by a friend, in her own home, that she did not know how to turn on “that TV”, then her husband came home and he couldn’t get it on either.

It’s hilarious…when it’s not happening to you.

So there I was turning the TV off and on, over and over, as if to purge the demons from it. When that did nothing, I turned the DVD player on and off a few times – for no good reason, really. Then I looked at the remote up close in my video magnifier, hoping to find a button labeled “fix it,” to no avail.

I had to break down and call the cable lady myself and I was not looking forward to chatting with her. She always asks questions beginning in “Can you see? Can you see the serial number on your cable box? Can you see the teeny tiny symbols in grey on your silver remote? Can you see the television…at all? Ugh.

As I dialed her number, I tried to visualize success, the way our Olympic athletes do. Keep your eye on the prize – TV on! My dread of the cable lady’s questions prompted me to choose the “automated system” for technical help (an option I almost never pick).

Once again, it reminded me how amazing voice recognition programs are when they work. This one, much to my surprise, was like magic. The automated voice never asked, “Can you see?” instead it somehow just took me through the steps one by one, asking a few questions, but mostly made it easy and pleasant to refresh my cable. No impatience, no emotion, no judgment – exactly what you want from a machine.

Within minutes I was reunited with Apolo Anton Ohno, thank goodness.