Finding a Voice on your Phone

Hello? Is anybody there? Something interesting is happening with speaking: The human voice is making a comeback. It was never really lost, of course, but it’s being heard more loudly online and also on those mobile devices called phones.

The joke about phones has been that they are used for anything but making phone calls. If you watch anybody under the age of 30 texting, you witness a swift dance across the keyboard that is amazing. (I can’t do it. Maybe because I have big hands and am not under 30.) People say ‘I use my phone to look at Instagram, take pictures and send texts.’ Some people even use a phone to order food.  Few will admit to actually talking on a phone.  But that’s changing.

A new app called Talko is launching. It promises to change the way you use a phone. You’ll have access to a swift-running stream of live talk, voicemails, texts, images – all organized into threads you can access later, or delete if you find something too embarrassing.

Talko’s creator, Ray Ozzie, is receiving a lot of good press for reviving the voice. He feels that talking is a good way to communicate, especially when augmented by texts and pictures. For the past few days, I’ve been trying some talking. I’ve been about 50% successful, with half my conversations moving over to email to render more detail.

In interviews, Ozzie has said that the inefficient aspects of talking are the most valuable, because they carry emotion. Texts can’t provide tone, pitch, tenor or speed of your speech.  Soon enough, I think, there will be an app written so that your phone lights up when the other person is getting anxious or upset. We might even have lie detectors on our phones soon. (‘Sorry, I have to call bullshit. The red light just lit up on my phone.’)  If you look at Topsy.com, you’ll see that sentiment ratings already exist in Twitter. Easier, because that’s text.

I like the idea that voices carry a lot information that we don’t always speak about. The most efficient efficiency will embrace those inefficiencies.