The unbearable Lightness of Voice First

6 Jan

Ahmed Bouzid wrote an interesting post on frequent unrealistic expectations from Voice First (“Voice First Sucks!“) and has started another one listing meaningful Voice First Use Cases. In that second post, he lists 6 dimensions that need to be considered when considering the effectiness and acceptability of Use Cases for Voice / Speech.

I was kindly invited to comment and I jumped on the opportunity 🙂

Voice First Use Cases - The 6 Dimensions

Like Ahmed, I, too, find the lack of knowledge among far too many people in the Voice First Community of how ASR / Speech Recognition actually works frustrating (if not criminal!). I go on about this here.

Voice / Speech is an interface of its own and yes it is serial and invisible (and often relentless). Nevertheless, at the same time, there are already plenty of use cases where it can help avoid taxing the user’s memory (e.g. not having to list all options upfront and expecting the user to remember them all and choose 1) and, if the ASR has been trained well (i.e. on sufficiently large amounts of real-world and representative data), the user doesn’t even have to speak loudly nor enunciate clearly. Heck, the user doesn’t even need to be patient, if they are allowed to barge in and interrupt the system’s prompts / instructions / factoids. And thankfully, Voice interfaces won’t get offended if you ask them to repeat something 2, 3, 10 times, so users don’t have to be that focused either. Good Voice interfaces that is 🙂

Time Sensitivity is a bastard though! You pause for too long or at the wrong point in your utterance and you may find yourself down a path you hadn’t envisaged or wanted (Enter misrecognitions). But even that can be modulated by playing around with the various timeout settings (if you have access to them!) and ensuring there are enough implicit confirmations of what you want at critical points.

This is all part of Voice User Interface Design (or, as I call it, Explainable VUI Design); decisions you have to take early on, before the detailed design and certainly before you launch to millions of users.

Here is the link to Ahmed’s LinkedIn post, where you can read other people’s comments.

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