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Designing Effective Speech Interfaces by Dean T. Barker, Susan Weinschenk

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Interview with Nicole Yankelovich

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Principal Investigator

Sun Microsystems Laboratories

Nicole Yankelovich is a principal investigator at Sun Microsystems Laboratories. Nicole established and managed the speech group at Sun Microsystems. Her background is in interface design research, including speech interfaces over the telephone and dialog design. In her interview, she describes some of her surprising results with usability testing of speech interfaces, and several of the usability engineering techniques they use at Sun to design speech applications.

What do you think are some of the interface challenges in speech applications?

Although I have designed a couple of multi-modal speech applications, my primary concentration has been on telephone-based applications. I think that the challenges are different, depending on your context. But in both contexts, the most difficult challenge is letting users know what they can say—letting them know the range of things they can say and where the limits of the application are.

The most difficult challenge is letting users know what they can say.

Talk some more about how you deal with that from an interface level.

Part of it depends on the constraints you have based on the technology you are using. My primary focus has been on using discourse cues in the prompts to constrain what people can say. That has some limitations. One of the techniques ...

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