I commuted to my first job on a bicycle. With my parent’s help, I bought a lemon yellow second-hand road bike that I pedaled 20 miles each way from 30th and N streets in Georgetown, Washington DC, over bustling Chain Bridge and the languid Potomac to an office park buried in Tyson’s Corner in Virginia. That was my workout each week. Then I moved to California and retired the bike. When I started working at Google, I spent the hour on the Google shuttle from San Francisco to Mountain View emailing. Today, I drive most places.
For the past few months, I’ve been listening to stand-up comedy. I’m trying to be funnier, but it’s not working. But at least I’m laughing while maneuvering through SOMA morning traffic. Sometimes, I blend in some podcasts from time to time including Invest Like the Best and Software Engineering Daily. I also try to schedule telephone calls. I’ve often felt that my current commute is my least productive. Until last week.
Now, for the first 20 minutes of my drive to the next meeting, I manage my email. One of our portfolio companies, Astro, released a feature that allows you to do something that I’ve dreamt about since watching the movie Her. Astro reads me my email, and allows me to respond just by talking.
Instead of waking up and looking at my email first thing, I wait until I get into the car. “Astro, read my email.” Then, I can archive messages that I’m not interested in. I can skip over messages that require work or until I’m back at my desk by saying “Snooze till Desktop.” Last, I can simply respond to Astro’s voice with my answer.
These kinds of experiences are the future of human computer interaction (HCI) - a conversation. A back-and-forth between a human voice and the computer voice, each one listening, each one speaking, collaborating to achieve something. We are still in the early days of this technology, but these inklings provided glimpses into the future of how computers will disappear into our background, but help us accomplish more than they ever have.
If you commute, check out Astro. I can’t promise it’s as funny as Aziz Ansari’s woeful dating life, but you’ll have an empty inbox by the time you get to work.