What: Automated office assistant based on speech interaction designed to leave messages for office visitors as as well take messages from them.
Where: Speech Application Group, Sun Microsystems Laboratories.
How: Principal Investigator. Tasks included project/people management, concept development, user research, interaction design, grammar development, paper writing, presentations, and software demonstrations.
This whimsical project was inspired when I saw a mannequin in an airline catalog and wondered why in the world anyone would buy such a thing. I decided I wanted one as an office assistant who would take messages for me when I was out of the office. I later discovered that people purchased this guy to put in their car so they could cheat and use the high-occupancy vehicle lanes.
Although the project was started as a lark, we learned a substantial amount about natural language dialogs from the experiment. Before designing the speech UI, I had an intern sit in my office every day for a week each time I left the office. She would take messages from anyone who stopped by. We recorded and analyzed all these interactions, designing the speech dialog based on the natural dialogs. Then we repeated the experiment with the automated system, tweaking the dialog design as we observed problems. The demo video gives you a feel for what the interaction was like.
N Yankelovich, CD McLain
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