The concept of true man-computer symbiosis, as J.C.R. Licklider
describes it, does not truly exist, yet. It may be many years before we
reach the true ideal that Licklider envisioned. However, when I evaluate
all aspects of this symbiosis as they are described in Man-Computer Symbiosis, an app called PhotoMath
comes to mind. PhotoMath is a mobile app designed for the Apple App
Store, the Google Play Store, the Windows store, and Amazon which can
solve complex mathematical equations with just the flash of your cell
phone’s camera. It only works effectively for typed numbers on
printed-out paper (so no hand-written equations and no pictures of a
computer screen), which can be considered a downfall. However, it will
take a picture of your algebra worksheet problems and spit out the
answers for you. Watch this video for a visual explanation of how to use PhotoMath’s camera. PhotoMath is most capable of handling typical variable problem, but it can save time when dealing with complex problems.
thought of PhotoMath when Licklider described the duties of the
computer in a man/computer symbiotic relationship. As I understood it,
computers are best designed to handle the technical portions of the
relationship. Computers are best utilized by handling the pre-work
involved in very complex jobs, such as graphing, creating testable
models, creating scenarios, and any job which is seen as
numerically-based. PhotoMath fulfills its duties, albeit to a smaller
degree than Licklider describes as ideal. The array of problems
PhotoMath is capable of handling, which can be found linked in the above
paragraph, qualify as pre-requisite work for many large-scale problems.
However, PhotoMath is still inhibited by its inability to read
handwritten equations or computer screens, which Licklider addresses in
general as an inadequacy and proof that true symbiotic relationships
between humans and computers have not yet been achieved.
Some of my other classmates brought up very good points which I had not considered. Jon mentioned Siri, Apple’s signature virtual assistant. Siri, Cortana, and Ok Google are great examples of man-computer symbiosis because it is as close as we can currently be to corresponding with our computers as though they were colleagues. We can now speak directly to our computers to find answers to our questions.
Christopher mentioned WolframAlpha, which is the service Siri utilizes for most of her instant searching. WolframAlpha also relates to PhotoMath because it can solve algebraic problems by reading them as they’re typed into the system. In this way, it could be more useful than PhotoMath as it eliminates some of PhotoMath’s biggest issues.
Madeleine pointed out what I discovered in my “Analyzing the Obvious” post – Google is still leading the symbiosis race. Google gives us access to all of the above listed resources, and with Ok Google as an integrated virtual assistant, Google offers the closest link to Licklider’s idea of man-computer symbiosis.