Tag Archives: Samsung Bixby

How to Design & Optimise Conversational AI Dialogue Systems

26 Jun
Data Futurology EP122 with Dr Maria Aretoulaki

The latest episode of Data Futurology features myself talk with Felipe Flores about how I got into AI, Machine Learning and Deep Learning (“When I discovered Artificial Neural Networks back in 1993, I thought I had discovered God!”) and later Data Science and Big Data Speech Analytics for Voice User Interface (VUI) and Voice First Design (for Speech IVRs and Voice Assistants).

In the podcast, I give an overview of all the different steps involved in VUI Design, the often tricky interaction with the different stakeholders (Coders, Business Units, Marketeers) and the challenges of working in an Agile PM framework, when skipping detailed Voice Design is suicide (and my worst nightmare!). I showcase some of the interesting and outright funny things you discover, when you analyse real-world human-machine dialogues taken from Speech IVR systems (hint, most original swearwords!) and I pinpoint the main differences between a Speech IVR and a Voice Assistant skill / action / capsule. I also contemplate on where Voice is heading now with the ubiquity of Voice First and the prevalance of skills that were developed by software engineers, web designers and Marketing copywriters, without VUI Design expertise, Linguistics Training or knowledge of how Speech Recognition works.

Data Futurology Podcast EP122 – Optimising Conversational AI Dialogue Systems with Dr. Maria Aretoulaki
Episode list of contents

I even provide tips on how to survive working for a Start-up and strategies on how to stay focused and strong when you run your own SME Business. Below is a brief checklist of some of the core qualities required and lessons I have learned working for Start-ups:

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You can listen to the whole episode on Data Futurology , on Apple Podcasts, on Google Podcasts, on Spotify, or wherever you get your Podcasts or you can watch it on YouTube:

#122 – Optimising Conversational AI Dialogue Systems with Dr. Maria Aretoulaki

It was a delight speaking to Felipe! It made me think about and consolidate some of the – occasionally hard – lessons I have learned along the way about Voice Design, NLP, AI, ML and running a Business, so that others hopefully prepare for and ideally also avoid any heartaches!

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Voice Assistants and Kids

7 Nov

This week I bumped into Echodad and “the world’s harshest critics of Alexa skills“, i.e. his 2 kids. Hat tip for the idea by the way!! πŸ˜€

I read with particular interest his Medium post on “How Voice Interfaces are infiltrating society and changing our children“, a mockingly deceptive title for a list of witty repartees to all the usual arguments against Voice Assistants and speech interfaces being used by children. Highly enjoyable! πŸ™‚

He addresses the perennial argument about children unlearning good manners, when they interact with VAs too much, and talks about his own experience with his kids assuring us that, actually, children know the difference between a human and a Voice Assistant. Phew, so there is no need to panic that they are going to suddenly be more and more rude to their teachers and grandparents and, hence, no need to reprogram voice interfaces to insist on “Pleases” and “Thank-yous” (Phew, again). I am fully in agreement there.

Similarly, he discusses the argument that children unlearn the importance and necessity of patience in the face of inescapable delays and life’s frustrations, when they can’t instantly get what they want (an answer to an obscure question about the animal kingdom or their favourite YouTube video). This seasoned dad knows that patience is something all kids have always struggled with and have to continually practise at that age. It is part of learning and growing up. And I can attest to that, too. (Oh the tantrums!)

Echodad & “the world’s harshest critics of Alexa skills”

However, in contrast to him, I am not at all comfortable or happy with the idea that my kid would go straight to Alexa or Google or Bixby for an answer to his Space or Transport questions and not even bother approach me. I may well take recourse to voice search myself for the answer, but I want to be the Gatekeeper to the Information Castle and not a passive bystander in his quests for knowledge. At least that’s what I consider as one of my – traditional – roles as a parent and I would like him to think that way too, at least until he is older. And it’s not just a hunch: having studied Psycholinguistics and Child Developmental Psychology at University in an earlier life (last century though!), I know the paramount importance of parental input, continuous feedback and playful interaction in the child’s quality and rate of learning anything, but particularly language.

In this respect, Voice Assistants, Voicebots, Chatbots and Voice Search itself have changed parent-child roles and interaction forever, and neither I nor many people can predict the long-term effect of this societal development. Kids are already and will become more and more independent, for sure, and that is not a negative thing in itself, but will that at the same time make me – as a parent – less dependable and approachable? Will he automatically assume I’m lacking in encyclopaedic knowledge and he that lessen his respect for me? And will the kid get the same quantity and quality of validation cues from Alexa or Google Assistant, as he would have got of me? More soberingly, will it teach kids that they don’t need to rely on or even invest much in relationships with people, because interacting with technology is easier, more fun and safer and more efficient? It’s not just the relationship to the parents we should be worried about, but all other family, work, peer and romantic relationships as well.

I am all for the use of voice interfaces and spoken dialogue systems by adults, e.g. myself, naturally, and my own clients; VUIs have been my bread and butter for decades! Nonetheless, at the risk of sounding like a regressive technophobe, I am vehemently against its use by children and will keep mine shielded for as long as I can manage! It’s already hard to keep him from doing a regular Google voice search for “pictures for buses” (sic). πŸ€” πŸ˜…

UBIQUITOUS VOICE: Essays from the Field now on Kindle!

14 Oct

In 2018, a new book on “Voice First” came out on Amazon and I was proud and deeply honoured, as it includes one of my articles! Now it has come out on Kindle as an e-Book and we are even more excited at the prospect of a much wider reach!

“Ubiquitous Voice: Essays from the Field”: Thoughts, insights and anecdotes on Speech Recognition, Voice User Interfaces, Voice Assistants, Conversational Intelligence, VUI Design, Voice UX issues, solutions, Best practices and visions from the veterans!

I have been part of this effort since its inception, working alongside some of the pioneers in the field who now represent the Market Leaders (GOOGLE, AMAZON, NUANCE, SAMSUNG VIV .. ). Excellent job by our tireless and intrepid Editor, Lisa Falkson!

My contribution “Convenience + Security = Trust: Do you trust your Intelligent Assistant?” is on data privacy concerns and social issues associated with the widespread adoption of voice activation. It is thus platform-, ASR-, vendor- and company-agnostic.

You can get the physical book here and the Kindle version here.

Prepare to be enlightened, guided and inspired!