Voice User Interface


Voice User Interface

A Voice User Interface (VUI) makes human interaction with computers possible through a voice/speech platform in order to initiate an automated service or process.

The VUI is the interface to any speech application. Controlling a machine by simply talking to it was science fiction only a short time ago. Until recently, this area was considered to be artificial intelligence. However, with advances in technology, VUIs have become more commonplace, and people are taking advantage of the value that these hands-free, eyes-free interfaces provide in many situations.

The VUI however often proves to be a major challenge. People have very little patience for a "machine that doesn't understand". Therefore, there is little room for error: VUIs need to be perfect or they will be rejected and often ridiculed by their users. Designing a good VUI is an art, which requires interdisciplinary talents of computer science, linguistics and human-factors psychology; skills that are expensive and hard to come by. Even with advanced development tools, constructing an effective VUI requires an in-depth understanding of both the tasks to be performed, as well as the target audience who will use the final system. The closer the VUI matches the user's mental model of the task, the easier it will be to use with little or no training, resulting in both higher efficiency and higher user satisfaction.

The characteristics of the target audience are very important. For example, a system designed for the general public should emphasize ease of use and provide a lot of help and guidance for first time callers. In contrast, a system designed for a small group of power users (including field service workers), should focus more on productivity and less on help and guidance. Such applications should streamline the call flows, minimize prompts, eliminate unnecessary iterations and allow elaborate "mixed initiative dialogs", which enable callers to enter several pieces of information in a single utterance and in any order or combination. In short, speech applications have to be carefully crafted for the specific business process that is being automated.

Not all business processes render themselves equally well for speech automation. In general, the more complex the inquiries and transactions are the more challenging they are to automate and the more likely they are to fail with the general public. In some scenarios, automation is simply not applicable and live agent assistance is the only option. A legal advice hot line, for example, would be very difficult to automate. On the flip side, speech is perfect for handling quick and routine transactions, like changing the status of a work order, completing a time or expense entry, or transferring funds between accounts.

See also

*User interface
*User interface engineering
*Speech recognition
*List of speech recognition software
*Voice browser

External links

* [http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030127.html Voice Interfaces: Assessing the Potential] by Jakob Nielsen


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