For those of you who don’t know me personally, you may have wondered (or you may have not even noticed) what has happened to the Tech Geek. The first half of 2013 has been a roller-coaster as my father-in-law has had significant health issues and I’ve transitioned from being an associate pastor at the congregation I served in Montana to being a solo pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Maple Valley, Wash. Yesterday I was officially installed by the bishop and it was great to have colleagues and friends, many who I’ve met through youth ministry circles, join in the celebration.
The past months have left little time or energy for writing these posts. Now that I’m officially installed and thinking that things will settle down apost-move, I’ll hopefully find some time to draft some helpful (I hope) thoughts. If you want to see the high-tech version of a pastoral installation, check out my new church’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SVLCcommunity. Yes, being this close to Seattle/Redmond/Bellevue, we have Microsoft employees in the congregation!
My phone updated to the newest version of the Android operating system a few months ago. With that update came the new Google Now. This ties your search history across Google into one place. So if you search for a place on Google Maps, the phone has directions ready to go the next time you turn it on. If you’ve received an e-mail about a flight, the phone will automatically track that flight and even tell you when you need to leave for the airport and tell you what the weather is like at your destination. It’s somewhat creepy and amazingly convenient.
If you’re using an Android device, it will either show up automatically or you can download it from the Google Play store. If you’re using an iOS device, you must download it from the Apple App store. Many iPhone users actually prefer the voice interaction on Google Now to Siri! Google Now also loads a series of informative cards, including weather, what’s going on nearby, and directions to home or work, so frequently needed information is very easily accessible.
Two of the many things that I’ve noticed and appreciate are the fact that Google Now recognizes text in context and the fact it lets me ask follow-up questions. It doesn’t always get it right, but just like a human listener, it tried to determine among similar sounding words by looking at the context they were used in.
If I ask, “Who is Wilt Chamberlain?” the voice will tell me he’s an American basketball player, according to Wikipedia. If I then ask, “How tall is he?” I get the answer, “Wilt Chamberlain is 7’1” tall. This leads to the ability to have a very conversational series of searches. As an added bonus, I didn’t have to know how to spell his last name!
Don’t have a smartphone and want to play with this? Just use the Google Chrome browser and head over to www.google.com and click on the microphone icon. You can see the same technology from your computer. More info on that is at http://www.google.com/insidesearch/features/voicesearch/index-chrome.html