1. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Talking Car...

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Commandante Lemming, Aug 14, 2014.

    So, I've been getting a lot of feedback that my future setting (2034) isn't futuristic enough, so I'm trying to add some winks and nods. Today I got what I thought was a good idea, and something that actually will probably be available in the relatively near future, but that I'm not sure works with my story. I like it - but I'm not sure it works.

    Namely - a talking car. More specifically a car with language recognition software advanced enough that you can talk to it and ask it basic questions and it will respond properly to almost anything you throw at it. I then added optional personality software that makes the system seem more friendly, and gave this car to my main character in a scene to see how it played.

    Here's my issue - the story itself is a little dark and pretty realist in approach. The talking car is cool and plausible, but it's more cutesy than gritty, it comes across as comedic, I'm worried about it breaking the more realistic mood of my setting, and I'm not sure I'm actually going to use it all that often.

    So - should I keep experimenting with the talking car or junk it? I'm undecided, it's fun but I don't know how to integrate it into the larger tone of the piece.
     
  2. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    I suggest you junk it. Better technology already exists and is far more portable.

    There's blue tooth technology that allows you to listen to phone calls through your speakers. There's no reason why this wouldn't continue to grow, however, it has little to do with the car itself. Also Syri and what ever the Android equivalent has been out for a year now. If you like the idea of a talking car, allow the cars to synch with your portable device and give you real time feedback on the vehicle's performance.
     
  3. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Is there a reason the personality you choose for the car couldn't be darkly cynical and sarcastic?
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Seems like a reasonable trend to me, electronics and machines that talk to the user, like Apple's Siri.
     
  5. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm junking it for now but holding on to the text and the concept if I need it later. The concept is plausible but the execution doesn't fit yet. If I need it back later, I'll bring it back. In the meantime I'm thinking about how language recognition technology can advance in ways consistent with the gritty/realistic setting I'm working in.
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Reminds me of the Knight Rider.
    I could see this - as I'm already imagining that my talking car would be blowing raspberries at my music choices and threatening to drive us off a cliff. Could be an interesting twist though, depending on how you handle it.
     
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  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I can see that same scenario, @peachalulu, but with the car's occupants turning the speakers off and using their own music devices because the only music available in the car is the commercial stuff the sole remaining mega-merged car manufacturer owns a stake in. o_O
     
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  8. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    This reminds me of Knight Rider and Kit (remember that? big British TV prog from the 80's with David Hasslehoff)

    The car conversed with it's driver all the time and had the ability to drive itself and communicated with its driver when the driver was out of the car, via a digital watch.

    They were a crimefighting duo so I guess my first question to you would be, are your car and driver a crimefighting duo or do you plan for this technology to be available to anyone in your story.

    And is it going to be technologically more advanced than just saying "fuel level at 4% please refuel at your earliest convenience"
     
  9. Lae
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    Lae Contributing Member Contributor

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    The car doesn't necessarly need to house the software for the voice recognition, it could be held centrally one some multinational company's server which i think is how apple do it it terms of looking up word definitions etc, that might seem irrelevant but i could easily be twisted to something dark. I don't know the story but it could be along the lines of adding a more sinister element to monitoring car usage, personal destinations, conversations, assassinations (if the car can control itself, cause an accident etc) that sort of thing. Just an idea, kinda like some of Asimov's stuff mixed with a little bit of blade runner
     
  10. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Asimov had four basic laws in place to prevent robots hurting humans/humankind so someone would have to over-write those laws if they wanted to cause the car to run itself and have any kind of learning abilities but also hurt someone. So you would have to think about how far you wanted to go with the car's robotic side. To discount Asimov's laws, you would have to make the car nothing more that a remotely controlled vehicle.
     
  11. Lae
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    Lae Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah i read alot of asimov, it was more of a hint at some of his work what with the suspicion of the robotic elements rather that the laws. advanced robotics would be more 2134 rather than 2034. It would essentially be a remote controlled vehicle i presume, say it ran on something like a magnetic tram style system that ferried people to destinations, a taxi of some sort. it would only take a remote code to unlock the magnetic link and the car would crash etc

    something along those lines, something small that they could change, the recording of diplomatic conversations could be another avenue, making it somewhat more sinister. Just a few ideas. Limiting its funcionality might help it seem more realistic and less childish, the taxi system working on something like google now, 'wheres the nearest bar, ok go there' that sort of thing.
     
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  12. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I did think it would be too close to Knight Rider. My MC is a journalist, but otherwise a normal person so not a lot of crime fighting. I had it so that the language technology was made widely available - but that the public was freaked out by personality features . So, car companies stopped offering them about 15 years before the story takes place and "modern" cars talk in monotone like our GPS systems, just with more sophistication. However, my character drives an "old beater" (2021 model :p ) and is one of the few people that liked the personality software and never uninstalled it. So, she's one of the only people she knows whose car is sarcastic and talks back to her - and her friends will often refuse to ride in her car.

    Cute subplot and fits the character - but if I were to use it, it would need a lot more refining.
     
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  13. Lae
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    Lae Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you're right to be tentative about including it, i think its the personal aspect that makes it cutesy to me.
     
  14. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I like that idea, I can imagine getting into my car and it saying "Good morning, Elaine. I hope you are in better mood today and don't drive me like a maniac."
     
  15. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    The other thing I thought about doing - since the car is going to be used pretty rarely once the character moves to the big city and starts relying on the subway - is implying that there's something weird about Nina's car without ever saying it, moving along with the story for a while, and then having a scene near the end where you figure out that the GPS has a personality, but even then it's a little heavy-handed.
     
  16. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just because it's funny I figured I'd post that the talking car is probably coming back thanks to my critique group - who tell me every week that my future isn't futuristic enough. This week I told them that I actually cut a scene with a talking car and was told to put it back in - so I guess I keep experimenting with the silly talking car :p
     
  17. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    That's right. Make the car fucking GLADOS.
     
  18. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    2034 isn't really that far away, how futuristic do they want it to be?
     
  19. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    You could make it less about a talking car and more of an AI assistant, like the computer in Dexter's Laboratory or Iron Man's JARIS. I mean, think about it--if we have computers smart enough to do basic stuff, we could just have one pal hang around with us and at all times, even when driving, and tell it, "hey, turn on the oven, since I'm coming home in ten!" "hey, kill that crazy cat lady across the hall!" or whatever. :p It won't be cutesy, necessarily, though of course a lot of potential for comic relief.
     
  20. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    It's worth pointing out that the children born right now will be getting their driver's licenses in 2030
     
  21. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    and I will be 61 years old and I honestly don't think we will have moved forward that much in the sense of talking cars that can set the oven going and turn the electric blanket on.

    I know this is probably a bad example but look at the film Back to the Future, where Marty travels to 2015 where we have clothes that automatically adjust to fit your body, holographic film advertisements for Jaws 15 (!!!) and hoverboards. Four months to go and we are actually no nearer to any of the above.

    Personally, by 2034 I would be happy with an iPhone battery that lasts longer than twelve hours and less repeats of crap on TV.

    :-D
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I think it's plausible we could have mainstream cars that recognize a driver in physical distress and take over long enough to pull over safely while calling emergency assistance.

    Talking cars aren't that impressive. Cars making complex decisions would impress me.
     
  23. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    For a car to make a complex decision (like what constitutes an emergency, the difference between an heart attack and a stressed mother screaming at the fighting kids on the back seat) it would have to make a series of complex calculations. As yet, computers (robots, whatever) can't actually do that, they are too black and white, yes and no. Nothing can make that split second decision as quick and as good as the human mind.

    And that is where the problem lies with robots that need to act like humans. The human mind and body is so complex in it's design and operation that it can't be reproduced. Only in recent years (very recent) has a robot been designed that can actually use stairs and even then, it takes three times longer for said robot to go down one step than it takes a seven year old human to go down a full flight of steps.
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You'd be surprised by some of the advances in machine learning and expert systems. I'm not suggesting that machines are close to achieving sentience, but they can be trained to respond within a certain range. We already have cars that can react to conditions like drifting out of the travel lane or an imminent collision.
     
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  25. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    That's true. I recently watched a program about cars with sensors that were supposed to sense people in the road in which case they would automatically apply the brakes.

    I have no doubt science will get there eventually but at the moment, IMHO, there are too many variables to each situation, nothing in life is textbook and so artificial intelligence can't be programmed to react accordingly to any and every given situation. They work on such formulas as 'if a = b then do c', not 'if a = b but c = d and e has an input after crossing f then try solution g before attempting solution h ...'
     

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