The difference between chatbot and voice search refinements

The difference between chatbot and voice search refinements 876 657 VUX World

What’s the difference between how people use chatbots and search bars vs voice user interfaces and what does that mean for how you design interactions for each?

One of the big differences between designing for a voice user interface versus a chat user interface and one of the big kind of striking differences between how people use chat and text based interfaces including search boxes compared to voice is all to do with search refinements.

If your search on a retailer website, if you use natural language search on a retailer website and you search for something like “I’m looking for men’s summertime clothes” or “I’m looking for something to wear this summer.” “I’m looking for something to wear on my holiday” or any kind of natural language search like that.

If you don’t find anything off the back of doing that search then your search refinement will end up shortening your search phrase and you’ll make it more keyword-based: “men’s summer clothes”. You will refine it down to something shorter because we’ve been trained over decades about how to use search engines and how search engines work.

If I have an actual conversation, if I’m in a shop talking to a sales assistant and I say “I’m looking for some clothes” and they say “what do you mean?”, what I’m likely to do in that situation is refine my search, refine my phraseology.

But if I’m in person having a conversation, it’s likely to be a hell of a lot longer. And so instead of me just saying “men’s summer clothes”. I’m likely to say something like: “Well I’m going on holiday in a couple of weeks time, you know, it’s supposed to be really hot weather. I’m looking for some shorts and t-shirts that kind of stuff.”

So the utterance there is incredibly long because I’m adding a whole load more context to the discussion. I’m saying that we’re going on holiday. There’s some context. I’m saying it’s going to be hot weather. That’s inferred that I’m looking for hot summertime clothing. I give examples by saying shorts and t-shirts and I don’t need to say ‘mens’ because it’s implied by the subtext of the conversation given the person who’s actually having the conversation.

And so not only is there are additional information underneath the utterance but there’s also a hell of a lot more information in the utterance.

We’ve been trained over the years, lifetimes, of having conversations that if someone doesn’t understand you, you then elaborate so that you can add more context, more information, to help them understand.

In the voice context, if you’re using a shopping application or a shopping voice user interface and it asks you a question like “Do you want to know more about the red t-shirts or the blue t-shirts?”

With voice, you might say “Both”. Right, the utterance starts out being narrow and short, but if the system doesn’t understand you and it says, “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand that. Do you want red or blue?” You over-elaborate again because you’ve been trained in conversation to add more information so that the other person can understand you.

And so instead of saying “both” again, you’ll say “I need both the red and the blue”, “I want to know more about both the red and the blue” and your utterance becomes longer.

And so that’s one of the real things to pay attention to when you’re designing voice user interfaces is:

1) be clear about the way that you phrase the question and anticipate those kind of nuanced responses
2) be prepared, when you do have to repair a conversation, that sometimes the utterances that you’ll get in response might be a little bit longer and contain a little bit more information.

Of course, it does work the other way around. Sometimes people will start with a long search phrase, then realise the system’s not quite functioning properly. It doesn’t understand them. And therefore they’ll refine something to be a little bit shorter, but it’s not always the case and sometimes it is the inverse.

Amazon’s Alexa strategy latest: trying to conquer a long-standing weakness

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Hacking speech systems

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Why Alexa doesn’t understand your accent

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Give your smart speaker a break, it’s working pretty hard

Give your smart speaker a break, it’s working pretty hard 1800 1200 VUX World

The microphone technology in your smart speaker, it’s pretty impressive.

When you talk, sound leaves your mouth, but it doesn’t travel in a straight line. It travels like a shotgun and it just blasts in all different directions and then bounces around the room and you get reflections.

It’s called reverb, and those reflections are timed differently, depending on the size of the room and the materials in the room and how much of the sound gets absorbed vs reflected.

That’s why your voice sounds different in the bathroom.

And so, to understand what’s being said, a microphone needs to pick up the direct signal that comes straight from the mouth, plus the reflections that are generated in the room.

Most smart speakers have more than one microphone. Some of them have about eight microphones. And so you’ll need to do all of that processing x 8,
then combine those 8 signals into one signal to then actually do the processing.

But that’s not all.

Imagine you’re not stood right next to the speaker. Imagine you’re stood at the back end of the room. Couple that with the sound of a Hoover and a screaming child and you’ve got some pretty complex work to do

So next time Alexa doesn’t quite hear what you’re saying or Google Assistant doesn’t understand you, give it a break. It’s trying to do some pretty complex stuff.

Conversational ear worms

Conversational ear worms 1800 1200 VUX World

What is the conversational equivalent of an ear worm?

An ear worm is a song that you just cannot get out of your head. It doesn’t matter how hard you try it just sticks in there.

If any of you have got kids then you’ll know exactly what it’s like to wake up at five o’clock in the morning, busting for the loo and you just cannot get that Peppa Pig song out of your head!

Musicians and music writers all over the world strive to create ear worms because if you can create an ear worm, then that’s job done!

My latest ear worm, I don’t see any reason why you should be immune to this is, Thomas the Tank Engine.

So I was thinking about that and I was thinking what’s the conversational equivalent of an ear worm?

We’ve all had conversations that we remember, some of us have had conversations that might have even been life-changing.

Does the same logic tie into conversations that we have with our voice assistants?

I remember the first time I asked Google Assistant for a football score and it played the sound of crowd cheering in the background. I still remember that today. It’s one of the best interactions I’ve had on Google Assistant.

And so we have the tools to create memorable experiences through a combination of conversation design and sound design and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a boring old insurance company or whether you’re a cutting-edge media outfit.

We all have access to the same tools and we all have the potential to create memorable and meaningful conversations.

So what’s the most memorable conversation you’ve had with your voice assistant, or the most memorable conversation you’ve had at all, and why?

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