By: Taku Furuta
I bought my first car navigation system, or “nav”, back in 2000. I believe I was still one of the “early adopters”; however, the car nav was already becoming a popular car electronic in Japan by then. Actually, it was a pretty fancy one with a retractable display, 3D virtual map, built in gyro-compass (so it would still provide guidance even when satellite signals were lost), altitude meter and more. However, what impressed me the most was the “full voice control system”. “Take me home”, “call my mom”, “100 m scale”, “avoid traffic jam” were some of the popular commands I used back then. Oh, yeah, and the nav even spoke different Japanese dialects depending on the location and setting I chose.
Coincidently, year 2000 is when I joined Keysight, (Agilent at the time). Joining one of the most technically savvy companies in the industry as an oscilloscope product line manager, I had a high hope of “what if oscilloscopes can hear my voice, too”.
Well, Agilent (Keysight) certainly did not disappoint me. In fact, did you know that Agilent has had a voice control enabled oscilloscope since 1999? The product was called “Option 200: VoiceControl for Agilent Infiniium Oscilloscopes (E2635A)”. Here is the picture from the original datasheet.
The option understood popular scope operating commands like “Run”, Stop”, “Default Setup” and “Auto Scale”. It controlled the vertical setting (like volts/div), horizontal controls (like time/div or delay sweep), and trigger and storage commands. In another words, the most popular operations were possible via voice commands… in 1999! In fact, many of my customers back then were asking for a scope “foot switch” for those operating it hands-free in the manufacturing line or engineers holding two probes in both their hands. “Wow, this must be a perfect solution, just like I loved my car nav voice commands!” At least, this was my first reaction as a first year product line manager. Well, it did not come out to be exactly that way.
First it understood English, to be specific American English, but nothing else. Growing up in the US, I had no problem using it. Believe it or not, it didn’t understand my good-old colleague’s British English! Obviously it did not understand Japanese and perhaps had a lot of trouble with “Asian pronounced English” as well. There was no “Siri” back then and I guess I don’t need to talk about the sales results. However, I thought it was a brilliant idea as the fundamental needs were there. Second, as you can see on the image above, one must use an included special “microphone” when talking to the scope, which was just one more device to lose.
Now, let me fast forward the clock to the year 2014, 15 years after a great but crazy innovation. If my memory is correct, no other oscilloscope vendors released another voice control enabled scope since the Infiniium option 200. And so Keysight tries again, in the era where voice control is a lot more pervasive, again thanks to Siri and Google devices in the market.
So, the new InfiniiVision 6000 X-Series oscilloscopes released in April 2014 comes with the world’s only voice control system, but this time with 14 different languages and dialects, including English (American), English (British) and English (Indian)! And yes, it understands Japanese as well. Furthermore, no dorky microphone is needed this time. And off course, now it is powered by the Nuance Communications, Inc. voice recognition engine (the company who build the Siri voice recognition system).
So, the next time, you see the InfiniiVision 6000 X-Series scope, make sure to say “Hello Scope” and it will gladly listen and respond to your commands in most languages around the world.
What’s the next crazy and innovative idea? What should all scopes have as a standard feature in 2030, another 15 years from now? As a Keysight oscilloscope planner, my job is to help realize your craziest oscilloscope dreams! Let me know!!