179: Public Speaking with Nintendo

Public Speaking with Nintendo

The Nintendo DS has a built-in microphone for a reason: humiliating yourself in front of strangers. Jiahui Cai details her increasingly bold attempts to play voice-activated DS games in public.

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That had me in stiches!
Im kind of glad I was given Nintendogs now, calling my Pug TROGDOR!!

Nothing beats the feeling of sitting in a cafe and just screaming 'Trogdor' at the top of your lungs followed by 'Good boy'.

On this note, the guy behind me was playing Nintendogs this morning. He called his dog Batman. The entire office is aware of the fact.

Totally delightful article, thank you. :D Man, I'm even more determined to some day acquire myself a DS.

A completely bizarre article. You know, you don't have to shout objection in Phoenix Wright!

I hated that you had to shout at that one type of enemy in Phantom Hourglass, do get around it on the train I 'coughed' into my DS, fortunately I didn't look too odd.

I think people find it weirder when I blow into my DS for WarioWare Touched. I must look completely crazy but I just hope that some people get it and the people who sit next to me seem genuinely intrigued by it all.

Thanks for the hilarious story.

I wouldn't dream of shouting anything into my DS in public, but it all depends on what people are comfortable doing and how self-conscious you are.

My reaction to anyone doing this on the bus would probably bring a smile to my face.

One of the funniest games to watch people play was a bomber man on the DS. There was a remote bomb you had to say bomb for it to go off. Kinda of a dangerous game to play at a airport.

As much as this is a great, unique interface mechanism, I think it highlights an important engineering principle: constraints.

The Nintendo DS is a portable system. You can carry it around in your pocket. You play it on a plane, train, or in an automobile. You might be playing it all alone on your couch or you could be in the middle of a crowd. How appropriate is voice control to this system?

It's not even so much that being loud is the problem -- unless you're in a library, church, or movie theatre, it's unlikely that making noise is a problem. The issue is with our expectations for social interaction and the cues triggered by somebody speaking.

As several anecdotes in this article reveal, we immediately respond to speaking as if somebody were speaking to us. Did you call me? Did you say to turn left? Who are you talking to? When something is being said, we expect it to be to somebody, and when it is said in the middle of silence, we immediately try to determine who is being spoken to, just in case it happens to be us.

It's the same etiquette problem that has developed (and is still evolving) with cell phones. The fact that somebody could be 2 feet from you, talking in a normal speaking volume, and yet not talking to anybody in the vicinty, is confusing to us. At least with a cell phone we can quickly ascertain that the person is talking on their phone; what goes through the mind of a person seeing you talk into a small black box?

As interesting and powerful as voice control is, it's not really appropriate to the platform. For something that will often be used in places where it's not appropriate to speak to a little black box, it doesn't make sense to require the use of a microphone. Thankfully some games (e.g. Brain Age) were developed with that in mind.

Lupie:
Totally delightful article, thank you. :D Man, I'm even more determined to some day acquire myself a DS.

ditto have to seriously consider buying one.

Completely brilliant! I loved the part about losing your DS to Nintendogs-- I diliberately do that to my friends to get them hooked on video games. Works like a charm.

I think Jiahui Cai would be one hell of a girlfriend. =P

You are quit a brave soul. I think I already got the warning from Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training:

Dr. Kawashima:
Now, I need you to answer the following questions out loud. Can you currently talk to a machine without folks giving you wierd looks?

That happened to me from the other perspective a couple of years ago. I was waiting for a train and all of a sudden this guy who was waiting there as well calls "Barney! Sit! SIT!" and keeps whistling into the mic of his DS. I knew he was playing Nintendogs but the old lady next to me sure didn't. It was hilarious watching both of them...

I was so glad to see that I did not have to shout OBJECTION! but could use keys instead. That was embarrassing.

awesome article XD
i could never do that, whenever im playing brain training in public, when it asks "can you speak aloud?" or something i select NO :P
i wanna get nintendogs, problem is i'd end up calling my dog something silly or rude like banana-hammock" or "nyaaaaaaaaaaaan"

nice article but a bit of a facepalm thing to do in a TAXI!!! It is just so personal!

i would never do that in public 0_o

ReverseEngineered:
As much as this is a great, unique interface mechanism, I think it highlights an important engineering principle: constraints.

The Nintendo DS is a portable system. You can carry it around in your pocket. You play it on a plane, train, or in an automobile. You might be playing it all alone on your couch or you could be in the middle of a crowd. How appropriate is voice control to this system?

It's not even so much that being loud is the problem -- unless you're in a library, church, or movie theatre, it's unlikely that making noise is a problem. The issue is with our expectations for social interaction and the cues triggered by somebody speaking.

As several anecdotes in this article reveal, we immediately respond to speaking as if somebody were speaking to us. Did you call me? Did you say to turn left? Who are you talking to? When something is being said, we expect it to be to somebody, and when it is said in the middle of silence, we immediately try to determine who is being spoken to, just in case it happens to be us.

It's the same etiquette problem that has developed (and is still evolving) with cell phones. The fact that somebody could be 2 feet from you, talking in a normal speaking volume, and yet not talking to anybody in the vicinty, is confusing to us. At least with a cell phone we can quickly ascertain that the person is talking on their phone; what goes through the mind of a person seeing you talk into a small black box?

As interesting and powerful as voice control is, it's not really appropriate to the platform. For something that will often be used in places where it's not appropriate to speak to a little black box, it doesn't make sense to require the use of a microphone. Thankfully some games (e.g. Brain Age) were developed with that in mind.

im sure if your on a train with someone you know, you can have a good laugh at people's reactions. not to mention they'd be less likely to judge because you are with a friend who understands your playing a game. it also has a lot to do with your appearance.

cell phones are annoying because no one wants to hear your personal conversations. somebody ordering their nintendog around sounds like a great way to cheer up the gloomy atmosphere around commuters on a train.

I've never been that impressed with voice controls myself. It might seem like a more intuitive and more natural way to communicate with a machine, but the system has traditionally suffered from many failures.

One of these is background noise. Apart from the ambient noises like the sounds of engines, there's the omnipresent danger that somebody might accidentally or deliberately sabotage your game with their own voices. The second of these is the fact that these voice controls are not traditionally very able to adapt to regional accents. If you think that the problems with Brain Age were noticeable to you, try to imagine how somebody with a strong Mancunian, Geordie or Glaswegian accent would feel. Even I, with a relatively neutral accent, would experience difficulties with certain aspects of my voice, including a slight lisp.

The third, and most relevant of these to the discussion at hand, is the reaction that people give to somebody using voice commands. As much as you may have successfully battled your inhibitions, the fact remains that somebody who appears to be talking to themselves will immediately be considered somewhat insane. I'd really rather not draw attention to myself; I'm already the sort of person who people usually actively avoid on the bus.

I don't see much future in voice commands, to be honest. My experiments have been in an isolated room, with a PC and relatively simple commands like "Start Menu" (Ctrl+Esc); my difficulties with even these have led me to believe that I won't be having a conversation with my computer for a while yet. It may be used as a supplemental thing along with more conventional controls, but that's as far as I see it going. The future is still in manual control, whether it be by the two-dimensional controllers of today, or more three-dimensional ones like the Wii Remote.

A truly entertaining article. I have enough trouble answering my phone in public, I couldn't imagine yelling at my handheld.

Personally, I think every DS game that includes voice commands should have some manual equivalent. I understand that Phantom Hourglass is supposed to be novel because it doesn't use the buttons and only has touchscreen and vocal controls, but that could alienate alot of gamers who play their DS's on busses or trains. Would it have been hard to designate one of the face buttons or D-pad to replace the voice commands?

That question isn't retorical actually, I've never played Phantom Hourglass so I'm not 100% sure how the voice commands work :-P

I haven't had any games that require the microphone, except a couple for blowing. However, as I read this article, and as I read the comments, I can't help but note there are plenty of times that you missed a chance to explain a new way to play games.

I would have paused my game and told the person about it, starting up some conversation as well as also, well, selling the idea. Next thing you know, other people around you are interested, and some may even want to try. When someone says "you look crazy", do what was done in the article. "Try for yourself!".

I can see how it breaks typical etiquette, similarly to the hands-free headset for phones, but the difference is a video game can be paused. While someone else is just having a conversation with no regard to the world around them (and often these people do happen to be rude), the DS can be paused and you can have a conversation with those you just surprised. It actually can act as a gateway to meeting new people.

Of course, some people will just say "that's crazy, shut up please", but screw them.

One thing I've found often with the DS is that it almost spurns traditional uses for its various functions. Although the touchscreen is often best used as a drawing surface, or writing, or perhaps clicking-and-dragging, it's just as often used to control a ship based on how you poke the screen, regardless of interaction with the objects in the game, or used to control an avatar with the actual design scheme is built - and suited - to the D-Pad control configuration.

On top of that, aside from Pokemon's online battle system, the microphone is not used to enable player-to-player communication. One would think functions like PictoChat and Mario Kart could benefit from player interaction, but instead are bypassed and used in obscure manners.

Although, using the DS as it is designed to be played in public is quite intriguing, and something I feel like more gamers could benefit from doing. The title is very appropriate, and while not entirely to-the-definition accurate, certainly encompasses the overall theme of the piece.

Ended somewhat abruptly though.

Jiahui Cai: Dearest lady, you are hereby pronounced my heroine!
A little time, a little more people like you and us DS gamers will soon be able to yell at machines freely on the mean streets of the world.

I know, I feel like such a retard when I play/talk to my DS in public.

 

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