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Meet META, the Meta-cognitive skills Training Avatar!

16 Jun

METALOGUE logo

EU FP7 logo

 

Since November 2013, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the EU-funded FP7 R & D project, METALOGUE, through my company DialogCONNECTION Ltd, one of 10 Consortium Partners. The project aims to develop a natural, flexible, and interactive Multi-perspective and Multi-modal Dialogue system with meta-cognitive abilities; a system that can:

  • monitor, reason about, and provide feedback on its own behaviour, intentions and strategies, and the dialogue itself,
  • guess the intentions of its interlocutor,
  • and accordingly plan the next step in the dialogue.

The system tries to dynamically adapt both its strategy and behaviour (speech and non-verbal aspects) in order to influence the dialogue partner’s reaction, and, as a result, the progress of the dialogue over time, and thereby also achieve its own goals in the most advantageous way for both sides.

The project is in its 3rd and final year (ending in Oct 2016) and has a budget of € 3,749,000 (EU contribution: € 2,971,000). METALOGUE brings together 10 Academic and Industry partners from 5 EU countries (Germany, Netherlands, Greece, Ireland, and UK).

 

METALOGUE focuses on interactive and adaptive training situations, where negotiation skills play a key role in the decision-making processes. Reusable and customisable software components and algorithms have been developed, tested and integrated into a prototype platform, which provides learners with a rich and interactive environment that motivates them to develop meta-cognitive skills, by stimulating creativity and responsibility in the decision-making, argumentation, and negotiation process. The project is producing a virtual trainer, META, a Training Avatar capable of engaging in natural interaction in English (currently, with the addition of German and Greek in the future), using gestures, facial expressions, and body language.

METALOGUE Avatar

Pilot systems have been developed for 2 different user scenarios: a) debatingand b) negotiation, both tested and evaluated by English-speaking students at the Hellenic Youth Parliament. We are currently targeting various industry verticals, in particular Call Centres, e.g. to semi-automate and enhance Call Centre Agent Training.

 

And here’s META in action!

 

In this video, our full-body METALOGUE Avatar is playing the role of a business owner, who is negotiating a smoking ban with a local Government Counsellor.   Still imperfect (e.g. there is some slight latency before replying – and an embarrassing repetition at some point!), but you can also see the realistic facial expressions, gaze, gestures, and body language, and even selective and effective pauses. It can process natural spontaneous speech in a pre-specified domain (smoking ban, in this case) and it has reached an ASR error rate below 24% (down from almost 50% 2 years ago!). The idea is to use such an Avatar in Call Centres to provide extra training support on top of existing training courses and workshops. It’s not about replacing the human trainer, but rather empowering and motivating Call Centre Trainee Agents who are trying to learn how to read their callers and how to successfully negotiate deals and even complaints with them in an optimal way.

IMG_20151218_143348

 

My company, DialogCONNECTION, is charged with the task of attracting interest and feedback from industry to gauge the relevance and effectiveness of the METALOGUE approach in employee training contexts (esp. negotiation and decision-making). We are looking in particular for Call Centres;both small and agile (serving multiple small clients) and large (and probably plagued by the well-known agent burn-out syndrome). Ideally, you would give us access to real-world Call Centre Agent-Caller/Customer recordings or even simulated Trainer – Trainee phone calls that are used for situational Agent training (either already available or collected specifically for the project). A total of just 15 hours of audio (and video if available) would suffice to train the METALOGUE speech recognisers and the associated acoustic and language models, as well as its metacognitive models.

However, if you don’t want to commit your organisation’s data, any type of input and feedback would make us happy! As an innovative pioneering research project, we really need guidance, evaluation and any input from the real world of industry! So, if we have sparked your interest in any way and you want to get involved and give it a spin, please get in touch!

2014 was mainly about the METALOGUE EU project!

27 Feb

Here’s the WordPress.com 2014 annual report for this blog.

The EU METALOGUE project definitely dominated the year!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Call Centre Training e-poll

11 Oct

As part of our METALOGUE project, we have created an electronic poll (e-poll).

metalogue_replay

Our goal is to collect actual real-world requirements from Call Centre professionals that will inform our system pilot design and implementation. Through this and a number of other e-polls, we are asking some basic questions on Call Centre Agent training goals, Call Centre Agent preferences, target functionality of an automated agent training tool, etc.

We are inviting anyone from the Industry, from Call Centre Operators and Managers, Agent Trainers, to Call Centre Agents (experienced and novice) to participate. Feel free to add your own input and comments.

If you can also use the Contact form below to indicate whether you are a Call Centre Operator / Manager, Trainer, or Agent (or all of the above!), we would be able to collect some data on the demographics of the e-poll respondents.

Thank you in advance!

Develop your own Android voice app!

26 Dec

Voice application Development for Android

My colleague Michael F. McTear has got a new and very topical book out! Voice Application Development for Android, co-authored with Zoraida Callejas. Apart from a hands-on step-by-step but still condensed guide to voice application development, you get the source code to develop your own Android apps for free!

Get the book here or through Amazon. And have a look at the source code here.

Exciting times ahead for do-it-yourself Android speech app development!

The AVIxD 49 VUI Tips in 45 Minutes !

6 Nov

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The illustrious Association for Voice Interaction Design (AVIxD) organised a Workshop in the context of SpeechTEK in August 2010, whose goal was “to provide VUI designers with as many tips as possible during the session“. Initially the goal was 30 Tips in 45 minutes. But they got overexcited and came up with a whooping 49 Tips in the end! The Session was moderated by Jenni McKienzie, and the panelists were David Attwater, Jon Bloom, Karen Kaushansky, and Julie Underdahl. This list dates back 3 years now, but it’s by no means outdated. This is the most sound advice you will find in designing better voice recognition IVRs and I hated it being buried in a PDF!

So I am audaciously plagiarising and bringing you here: the 49 VUI Tips for Better Voice User Interface Design! Or go and read the .PDF yourselves here:

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And finally ….

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Have you got a VUI Tip you can’t find in this list that you’d like to share? Tell us here!

 

TEDxManchester (13 Feb 2012): Best of!

15 May

2012 can easily be dubbed the year of TEDx for me, as by mid-February I had already attended two TEDx events! First up was TEDxSalford in late January, where I was just a mindblown attendee, and two weeks later it was TEDxManchester where I had the honour to be a speaker!

TEDxManchester took place on Monday 13th February this year at one of the iconic Manchester locations – and my “local” – the Cornerhouse.  Among the luminary speakers were people I have always been admiring, such as the radio Goddess Mary Anne Hobbs, and people I have become very close friends with over the years – which has led me to an equal amount of admiration, such as Ian Forrester (@cubicgarden to most of us).

Here are their respective talks at TEDxManchester 2012 for you to get a taste of the atmosphere at the event and of the impact of the ideas and the immediacy of the sentiments circulated!

Mary Anne Hobbs

Ian Forrester

 My TEDxManchester talk

I spoke about the weird and wonderful world of Voice Recognition (“Voice Recognition FTW!”): from the inaccurate – and far too often funny – simple voice-to-text apps and dictation systems on your smartphones, to the most frustrating automated Call Centres, to the next generation, sophisticated SIRI and everything in-between. I explained why things go wrong and when things can go wonderfully right. The answer is “CONTEXT”; the more you have of it , the more accurate and relevant the interpretation of user intention will be, and the more relevant and impressive the system reaction / reply will be.

Here is finally my TEDxManchester video on YouTube.

And here are my TEDxManchester slides.

The (Re)Tweets

(in reverse chronological order)

@ar3toul4ki 17 Feb

thanks for the #TEDxMCR piccie @cubicgarden! http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7050/6875061121_69555f7eb3_b.jpg @TEDxManchester

Cornerhouse @CornerhouseMcr 16 Feb

For those of you who missed #TEDxMCR check out @cubicgarden’s pics! Videos should be with us in a couple of weeks http://www.flickr.com/photos/cubicgarden/tags/tedxmcr/

Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki

Martin Williams @ukcopywriting 15 Feb

@ar3toul4ki ‘s Next level awesome epic bio – http://www.tedxmanchester.com/#speakers #TEDxMCR
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
In reply to @ar3toul4ki

@ar3toul4ki 15 Feb

What an awesome (wicked, epic) bio the cool guys and girls @TEDxManchester have written for me!!! http://www.tedxmanchester.com/#speakers #TEDxMCR

@ar3toul4ki 15 Feb
RT @global_lingo: Maria Aretoulaki on voice recognition software. Will digital transcription ever be any good? #tedxmcr no, no it won’t

Lynne McCadden @lmccadden 14 Feb
Belated I know but many congrats to @herbkim for a fantastic TEDxMCR yesterday been thinking about some of it all day today !
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki

TEDxManchester @TEDxManchester 14 Feb
Here’s to the #TEDxMCR speakers in Session 2 – @daveerasmus @martinsfp @ar3toul4ki @cubicgarden @brendandawes
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki

TEDxManchester @TEDxManchester 13 Feb
Thanks to @BandXMedia all today’s #TEDxMCR talks were recorded, will be edited & put online soon 🙂 #TEDxMCR @s2martin
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki

Lynne McCadden @lmccadden 13 Feb

#tedxmcr learning about quarks and leptons from @tarashears making particle physics easy – sort of
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki

Lynne McCadden @lmccadden 13 Feb

watching this @TEDxManchester kevin slavin’s TED talk on how algorithms shape our world:  http://www.ted.com/talks/kevin_slavin_how_algorithms_shape_our_world.html
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki

Dr Marieke Navin ‏ @lisamarieke

depends if fitting gaussians to your data is your thing… Question is, do you understand your data?!
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki

Oh yes! © Bruce Balentine RT @LukeRobertMason: “It’s better to be a good Machine than a bad person” Discuss? #TEDxMCR
13 Feb
Luke Robert Mason ‏ @LukeRobertMason

How to Wreck a Nice Beach @TEDxManchester #TEDxMCR
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
Luke Robert Mason ‏ @LukeRobertMason

It’s a bright future if you are an algorithm or infomorph #TEDxMCR
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
Luke Robert Mason ‏ @LukeRobertMason

@RichardMichie A little bit of non-human agency can’t hurt… Or can it 😉 #TEDxMCH
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
In reply to RichardMichie
13 Feb
 Ian Forrester ‏ @cubicgarden 

Infomorphs or a weaver… #TEDxMCR love the idea 🙂 very cool! They could work with #perceptivemedia yfrog.com/gzeg2jij
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
Ian Pettigrew ‏ @KingfisherCoach

#TEDxMCR @skeuomorphology challenging ‘necessity is the mother of invention’; cars weren’t invented as a response to a shortage of horses!
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
Luke Robert Mason ‏ @LukeRobertMason 

Pure information technologies are the first evolutionary aware technologies. They are stochastic… Emerge from randomness #TEDxMCR @weavrs
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
Luke Robert Mason ‏ @LukeRobertMason 

Living software ‘bots’ or infomorphs via @weavrs #infomorph #TEDxMCR @skeuomorphology
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
Michael Di Paola ‏ @MichaelDiPaola

Robots made from programmable gel…where the hell am I? A parallel universe, the future. No. Just at #TEDxMCR listening to Dan O’Hara
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 Luke Robert Mason ‏ @LukeRobertMason 

Infomorph, a form that exists just of information @skeuomorphology #TEDxMCR
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb

Luke Robert Mason ‏ @LukeRobertMason 

Another type of software agent that exhibits life, @weavrs #infomorph @skeuomorphology #TEDxMCR
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb

@ar3toul4ki 

@pgaval δε πειράζει, θα είναι στο YouTube για πάντα! (Μαμά! )
In reply to Petros Gavalakis
13 Feb

@ar3toul4ki 

Mondays are my favourite days of the week : D
13 Feb
 Matthew Brooks ‏ @brooksoid 

Great, great talk by @brendandawes on the value of pursuing ideas, and the ideas they spawn, without necessarily knowing where you’re going
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
from Manchester, Manchester
13 Feb
 RichardMichie ‏ @RichardMichie 

Failed art at school? You can still exhibit at #moma @brendandawes #tedxmcr great story love it
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 @ar3toul4ki 

@brendandawes’ cinema redux of Hitchcock’s Vertigo #TEDxMCR twitpic.com/8jfs95
13 Feb

sphey1 ‏ @sphey1

If you make something, give it a name – re: Cinema Redux @brendandawes #TEDxMCR
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

Things that @brendandawes has done with his 3-printer #TEDxMCR twitpic.com/8jfpn6
13 Feb
 

@ar3toul4ki 

@brendandawes : the creative process is iterative. ( but Battling it against time & cost constraints) #TEDxMCR
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

RT @CMindsKelly: @brendandawes. The thing we in the room all share is curiosity. That’s why we’re always making new things #TEDxMCR”
13 Feb
 Martin Bryant ‏ @MartinSFP 

At #tedxmcr, @cubicgarden explained how @tdobson and @adew saved his life. instagr.am/p/G9BmXRStoc/
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb

@ar3toul4ki

Ian Forrester: fear the fear #TEDxMCR
13 Feb
 Claire-Marie ‏ @CMBoggiano

‘We are complex & unique organisms And yes, I am still an atheist.’ Ian Forrester, #TEDxMCR
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 @ar3toul4ki 

Indeed! RT @TonyChurnside: @cubicgarden really touching. Very nicely done!
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

@brooksoid any time!
In reply to Matthew Brooks
13 Feb
 Matthew Brooks ‏ @brooksoid 

@ar3toul4ki great talk Maria, speech recog in focus at the beeb right now, be interesting to talk once I’ve worked out what our landscape is
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 TEDxManchester ‏ @TEDxManchester

Link to the funny vid played by @ar3toul4ki – Scottish voice recognition problems.. http://youtu.be/sAz_UvnUeuU

Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 @ar3toul4ki 

Ευχαριστώ! Το είδες μήπως; RT @pgaval: @ar3toul4ki Καλή επιτυχία!
13 Feb
 Claire-Marie ‏ @CMBoggiano 

‘When I was lying in bed dying, where were the real people?’ Ian Forrester, #TEDxMCR
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 Tony Churnside ‏ @TonyChurnside 

Watching @cubicgarden talk about his #brushwithdeath. A very scary time. #TEDxMCR pic.twitter.com/hED5mimw
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb

@ar3toul4ki 

@tdobson @cubicgarden is talking about you! : D
In reply to Tim Dobson
13 Feb
 Tim Dobson ‏ @tdobson 

so @cubicgarden is talking about it #brushwithdeath when I may or may not have been his flatmate at the time.. #tedxman
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 Matthew Brooks ‏ @brooksoid 

And @cubicgarden ‘s talk is about… @cubicgarden ! He’s finally gone recursive. #TEDxMCR
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 Tony Churnside ‏ @TonyChurnside

@cubicgarden you’re looking good! pic.twitter.com/n8xvkzJB
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 Ian Forrester ‏ @cubicgarden

And next on at #TEDxMCR its @ianforrester. With the story of me…
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 TEDxManchester ‏ @TEDxManchester 

Hilarious talk on Voice Recognition from Dr Maria Aretoulaki #TEDxMCR
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 Tim Dobson ‏ @tdobson

@davemee it’s all about context! /cc @ar3toul4ki 😉
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
In reply to Dave Mee
13 Feb
 Tim Dobson ‏ @tdobson 

@davemee @ar3toul4ki “fetish cheese”
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
In reply to Dave Mee
13 Feb
 Dave Mee ‏ @davemee 

@tdobson @ar3toul4ki feed her through siri and send me a transcript!
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
In reply to Tim Dobson
13 Feb
 Kate Towey ‏ @katiemaymanc 

Fascinating talk from Tara Shears on particle physics. ‘2012 is year of the Higgs’ #tedxmcr
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 Ian Pettigrew ‏ @KingfisherCoach 

So far at #TEDxMCR we’ve covered pursuing your passion, JDI (and make mistakes), technology, algorithms, and particle physics. I’m happy!
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 Allie Johns ‏ @AllieJohns

I propose bringing back Tomorrow’s World and having Tara Shears present it #tedxmcr
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki

@TaraShears @TEDxManchester: oh my Higgs! We’ve seen something! Or have we?? #TEDxMCR twitpic.com/8jdo56
13 Feb

Ian Forrester ‏ @cubicgarden 

The goddamn particle explained at #TEDxMCR yfrog.com/obsv5tmj
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb

@ar3toul4ki 

@TaraShears @TEDxManchester: where’s that God-damned Higgs particle?! If we don’t find it, we’ll have to start all over again… #TEDxMCR
13 Feb
 Claire-Marie ‏ @CMBoggiano 

“@lmccadden: #tedxmcr learning about quarks and leptons from @tarashears making particle physics easy – sort of”
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki

@TaraShears @TEDxManchester: symmetry, simplicity, elegance = beauty of the standard model of particle physics #TEDxMCR
13 Feb
 TEDxManchester ‏ @TEDxManchester 

Up next @TEDxManchester is @TaraShears – tune in live to ow.ly/92eRf #TEDxMCR
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 @ar3toul4ki 

@TEDx video 1 @TEDxManchester: pragmatic chaos to describe fluid things such as culture #TEDxMCR
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

@coralgrainger no worries sweetness : )
In reply to coralgrainger
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

@TEDx video @TEDxManchester: what we don’t understand, we give a name and a story to #TEDxMCR
13 Feb
 @ar3toul4ki 

@maryannehobbs you were, nay ARE, awesome! Xx
In reply to maryanne hobbs
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki

Dan O’Hara @skeuomorphology @TEDxManchester: from random relentless replication (cf. spambots) to guided transformation of chaos #TEDxMCR
13 Feb
 Kim Willis ‏ @KimberleyWillis 

Dan O’Hara: technology is not a selection of gadgets but a body of knowledge instagr.am/p/G8sGbrBVY7/ #TEDxMCR
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb

Ian Wareing ‏ @ianwareing 

#tedxmcr @skeuomorphology “Necessity is not the mother of invention. Invention is the mother of necessity”
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 Ian Forrester ‏ @cubicgarden

Bloatware… or stimulation of the real on the virtual RT @maanasvarun: Skeumorphism. wait what? #TEDxMCR
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

Dan O’Hara @skeuomorphology @TEDxManchester: the creation of living technology by merging the Arts and Sciences #TEDxMCR
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

@tombloxhammbe @TEDxManchester: go through life making mistakes, otherwise you don’t take any decisions, just do it ! © #TEDxMCR
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

@maryannehobbs @TEDxManchester: John Peel saving lives again #TEDxMCR
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

@maryannehobbs @TEDxManchester: follow your passion! #TEDxMCR twitpic.com/8jcwpn
13 Feb
 TEDxManchester ‏ @TEDxManchester

Hi all we’re suggesting #TEDxMCR as the hashtag for the event today as it’s a bit shorter than #TEDxManchester 🙂
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
 TEDxManchester ‏ @TEDxManchester 

Sorry folks for the livestream #fail. We’re currently on this channel live.. bit.ly/y9kkZa #TEDxMCR
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

@gazshaw cheers!
In reply to Gaz Shaw
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki

😀 see you there Mike! It’s been a loooong time! RT @mike_higham: @ar3toul4ki @TEDxManchester Looking forward to it #TEDxMCR
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

@heloukee oh nooo : s
In reply to Helen Keegan
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

Excited & honoured to be speaking @TEDxManchester today. My talk “Voice Recognition FTW!” on the present+future of user interfaces #TEDxMCR
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

See you there Matt! RT @matthbooth: A bit of work then @TEDxManchester. Looking forward to it.
13 Feb
 Allie Johns ‏ @AllieJohns 

“@maryannehobbs: interesting day: speaking about passion at @TEDxManchester 1pm.. ” > we can never have enough passion in our lives.
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
13 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

😀 Will you be my groupie?? RT @technicalfault: @ar3toul4ki Dr Maria at TEDx!
12 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

Looking forward to giving #TEDxMCR an insight into the wondrous+often misconstrued world of voice recognition @TEDxManchester tomorrow
12 Feb
 TEDxManchester ‏ @TEDxManchester 

And in other late-breaking news Dr. Maria @Ar3toul4ki will also be taking the stage tomorrow at #TEDxMCR 🙂
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
12 Feb
 TEDxManchester ‏ @TEDxManchester 

A big welcome for our latest speaker @MartinSFP – European Editor @TheNextWeb for #TEDxMCR. Like @MaryAnneHobbs a brave no-slide presenter!
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
11 Feb
 Anna Nachesa ‏ @ashalynd 

I’ll probably be very evil if I ask during an interview if tail-optimized recursion is possible in C. OTOH, it might be a great icebreaker:)
Retweeted by @ar3toul4ki
11 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

RT @TEDxManchester: @ar3toul4ki:really excited bout Mons #TEDxMCR @maryannehobbs @brendandawes @cubicgarden @skeuomorphology @tombloxhammbe

10 Feb
@ar3toul4ki 

Can’t wait to finally meet you! : D RT @maryannehobbs: @ar3toul4ki 🙂

10 Feb
 @ar3toul4ki 

Getting really excited about Monday’s #TEDxMCR @CornerhouseMcr: @maryannehobbs @brendandawes @cubicgarden Dan O’Hara & my Uni’s Tom Bloxham

A speech recognition user interface works when it … disappears!

25 Oct

Today is a big day for me! I’m finally getting to meet in person one of the Coryphées of the VUI Design World (even though as far as I know he’s not a ballet dancer), Bruce Balentine of the Enterprise Integration Group (EIG).  Bruce is the author of one of the best books ever written on IVR / Speech applications / Voice User Interface Design, It’s Better to Be a Good Machine Than a Bad Person – Speech Recognition and Other Exotic User Interfaces at the Twilight of the Jetsonian Age.

Apart from the ingenuity of the title itself, encapsulating the golden rule of good user experience / usability design, you can readily see to what great lengths Bruce has gone to serve his pearls of design wisdom in a most humourous and utterly witty way. This doesn’t in any way decrease in the least the importance, relevance and truthfulness of his observations and recommendations. Bruce is a veteran designer and he has seen it all before, from the excitement and optimism to the disappointment and pessimism, to the final destination, design realism:

First we tried to make them human. Now it’s time to make them work 

To get a flavour of the type of UX design advice and messages conveyed in the book, here’s an extract from Chapter  132: Will Speech Technology Ever Work? (pp. 393-395 in my 2007 edition):

In closing, I must ask the question. Will it ever work? And, of course, the answer is, yes. Speech recognition—and its related technologies (e.g., speaker verification, text-to-speech, audio indexing, speech data mining, dictation) will work. Indeed they already do. They will fill their respective application niches almost completely. And, in fact, the majority will do so quite soon. What will change is the definition of “work”.

Speech recognition is primarily a user interface technology*. As such, it works when it disappears. It’s really that simple. When the users are not thinking about the user interface, but instead are accomplishing the task to which they are connected by the user interface, then and only then can the interface be said to be “working.” We have to stay on message with this fundamental fact if we are ever to succeed at bringing speech to the performance level where we can legitimately claim that it “works.”

True words!!! As a bonus,  Leslie Degler’s illustrations perfectly complement and enhance the messages conveyed in the text, once again in the wittiest and most original manner.  Buy this book ASAP! After all, if you don’t agree with its theses, you can always return it. All you need to do is:

Write out in longhand, on a separate page, “I,” and add your name, “agree that there’s not a chance in Hell any refund will ever come of this claim.” Label this statement as your “declaration.”  

After you have received your refund, we’ll call you with an outbound IVR that asks you several hundred thought-provoking questions about your customer experience. We value your opinion—please give us your most honest and spontaneous responses. We’ll do our best to recognize them

It says it all really! 🙂

To date, I have only met Bruce virtually, through Skype calls and the Creative Speech Technology Network (CreST) of which we are both members, and I can already tell he is a very funny, witty, creative (musical!),  interesting, as well as intelligent person. So I can’t wait to meet him in person later today and hear some more fascinating stories and hilarious anecdotes from the world of speech recognition application design, voice interface usability and technology abuse!

UPDATE:

I went (to the dinner with Bruce) and (was) conquered by the brilliance and witticism of the man! I got my long-awaited autograph in his book too, as I can now prove!