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What did IBM do when a proof of concept showed that a certain idea was ahead of its time?

IBM is one of the most important companies in the world when the subject is computing and technology. Its name stands for International Business Machines and it has been massively growing since its foundation in 1888 with its new solutions.

In the Silicon Valley, it is common to hear that in 1980’s IBM wanted to take a solution into the market which would substitute typewriters once and for all by personal computers. Something that still needed arguments to be financially justifiable.

One of the ideas the engineering team had was to develop a solution which would substitute typing for dictation. In other words, the person would say what she wanted the computer to write and it would automatically do so. There were many reasons to justify the success of the program. The possibility of doing other manual tasks while dictating was one of them.

A definite shift from typewriters to PCs was expected, with a patented technology which would not be achieved by competitors any time soon.

Changing routes does not mean changing the destination.

But before starting to develop it, IBM engineers made a Proof of Concept. They called a lot of professionals to a room: secretaries, journalists, students, professors, executives and other people who could be potential customers. They asked each one of them to simulate a routine with the new software. While the person dictated the words to be typed, there was a person under the table who typed it secretly and the content appeared on the screen in real time, something that would surprise the participant. However, in every case, it was reported that though the experience was great, it felt more exhausting and invasive to dictate the words than to type it.

After collecting all the feedback, IBM understood it was not worth it to continue to carry the project with this goal. Years later, nowadays it is extremely natural to see Closed Caption in televisions, and Speech to Text technology is widely used in GPS, Whatsapp, Gmail, Siri and even Watson, by IBM.

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