My Car, My Voice: Skip Siri, Google Assistant and get directions in your own voice
Illustrative image Image Credit: ANI

Over the course of online schooling, my daughter, Little Princess, has made some resourceful friends. The Google family, complete with cousins — near and far, top the list and together are inseparable through the week; their combined efforts were sent to me as her Mid Term Report. Siri follows close behind, but has pretty much steered clear on the academic front sticking only to entertaining her solitary moments with bizarre answers to her bank of bizarre questions.

Back in a day when the Google family was a part of dystopian novels and computers were complex machines that occupied dust-free, air-conditioned glass rooms that were view-only for us children, resource was confined to the school library. I distinctly remember a shelf-full of ‘For Dummies’ books that we refused to borrow. It felt better to be oblivious to the complexities of Microsoft Word rather than being the Dummy!

We instead chose to read dystopian novels about an age when little children used complex computing machines reduced the size of a book, strange hand-held contraptions that multitasked jobs with one click and a virus that threw humans into a virtual bubble.

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The British Library was an imagination gymnasium with its treasure trove of resourceful encyclopedias about the living, nonliving and the dead, their many inventions and a world beyond our thought and sight. During our yearly visits, we spent mornings spinning and treasuring a differently amazing picture for every story and every picture on those glossy pages.

A time when mothers didn’t knock at Dr. Google’s door with a range of symptoms and return anxious about the 500 maladies that could spell doom, when family recipes treasured stories with every handwritten piece stained with fragrant memories of some aromatic past, when the soon-to-be-extinct act of getting lost gave birth to a story too!

Like that sunny day in Kerala, when a family of five and a driver, cramped inside the sturdy Ambassador, set out to pay respects to a bereaved relative. We traversed winding roads as a blur of green paddy and dancing palms raced past us. Upon closing towards our destination, our otherwise skilful driver who owned a personalised mental Google Map for every one of our relative, could not trace the house.

Walking on the fringes

When one failed, another was seen walking on the fringes of the road. A quick call for help and a mention of the intended relative’s name brought forth a knowing smile. Our updated walking-talking-Google Map pushed himself into the already-cramped front seat to hitch a ride and show us the way. This arrangement benefited both parties, for if the lost party got to reach the intended destination, our guide would have extracted enough information for his evening gathering at the chayakada. (teashop)

On this day, our travel buddy, Google Maps, can be updated to show COVID hot zones. If Ms. Steely — Voice-Navigation is to throw us additional information of these hot zones, this is probably how she would sound.

“You have reached a COVID hot zone where residents party throwing caution and masks to the wind. To join them turn right, to stay COVID-free exit left.”

“You are currently traversing a COVID hotspot where people socialise with their masks around their chin and forehead. You have reached your destination if you are one among them, else exit right.”

“On your left is a COVID hotspot where residents believe that Global Warming and COVID-19 are a conspiracy. To join the club stop here, else exit left to the real world.”

“You are currently in a COVID hot zone where residents are supposed to be quarantining after a party, but while they are at it, they are throwing another after-party-quarantine party. If you are invited, your destination is on your right. If not, exit left to a safer world.”

If you hear Ms. Steely-Voice-Navigation warn you after your next update, you know where you heard it first.

— Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @MenonPranitha