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So I’ve stumbled out of bed and dragged myself to the breakfast table, propped up an e-reader on a stack of unused coasters, got a slice of buttered toast in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, and …

And what? I don’t have a spare finger to press buttons or swipe the screen with, and if I did it would be covered in butter and jam. And an e-reader propped up precipitously in random places really needs another hand to hold it while you swipe, otherwise it’s going to leap off the coasters and tumble over the edge of my wife’s plate and into the remains of her bacon and egg, which is not a good look for tablets. What I desperately need—and don’t have—is an app that turns pages for me when I issue a voice command.

There are several voice command apps available for the Android tablets that I use, of course, but none of them seem to be able to penetrate within a program and substitute for screen actions. And the ones that worked at all showed the usual infuriating inability to recognise what I was saying, even when I spoke S-L-O-W-L-Y and C-L-E-A-R-L-Y, so you can judge for yourselves what they would make of commands issued through a mouthful of toast.

What we need is the capability within the e-reader software to respond to a single unambiguous sound—a vocal click, say—with a single response: turn the page. The designers can elaborate on it if they want to; maybe add two clicks to turn back a page, or a short whistle to insert a bookmark. It wouldn’t have to substitute for the complete range of commands, merely fill in for the most important ones when the reader’s hands were otherwise occupied. It could also recognise other non-verbal inputs—thumping the table, say, or jiggling the device up and down on your knees—but the main point would be that I could move from one page to the next at my own pace without getting breakfast spreads all over the screen and/or buttons.

Is that too much to ask?

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