PIT talk by Stuart Reeves on Talking with machines? Voice UI and conversation design

2017.09.29 | Marianne Dammand Iversen

Date Tue 10 Oct
Time 14:15 15:00
Location Nygaard 295

There is much excitement about conversation as a new material for design, driven in part by the increased accessibility of voice user interfaces and commoditisation of AI techniques. As part of increased adoption, devices like the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Siri are providing platforms for designers to interact with users in new ways. In spite of this often hyped anticipation of an AI-powered future, it is not always clear how the vision measures up to lived, mundane reality of supposedly 'having a conversation' with machines.

I'll present empirical work examining how voice UIs like the Amazon Echo actually come to be used in concrete social settings. By capturing naturalistic recordings of Echo use in participants' homes we can start to build a rich picture of how users 'get stuff done' with voice UI (as opposed to 'have a conversation with it'). Drawing on insights from Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis, our work considers issues including: the importance of response design in shaping how users direct speech to voice UI, how questions and instructions are addressed to the device and how responses are managed, how voice UI is collaboratively woven into ongoing talk and activities in the home, along with considering the importance of silence as a meaningful resource in talk.

Our findings lead us to a range of implications and conceptual challenges for 'conversational design'. Firstly, we reject the notion of devices as 'conversational', arguing that this is a confusion. Secondly, that things said to devices are accountable to social circumstances in various ways. Finally, we compare the 'black box' tendencies of current design with a reconceptualisation of device responses as interactional resources for further action.

Bio:Stuart Reeves is EPSRC Senior Research Fellow, at the school of Computer Science, University of Nottingham.

Stuart is member of the Mixed Reality Lab. He does research in social and collaborative technologies, investigating how people use diverse kinds of interactive devices and systems in real world situations and places.

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