Design of digital technologies / tools often means design of products and services where the visual component is the most prominent. Think about websites, mobile application and software, and you can see that the main interaction mode is visual. But there are many other ways to interact with a digital product, and the audio is a fundamental one. Not only as an output interface (users receive information from the system) but also as an input channel: people can give instructions to software by talking to it.
Analysis of Voice as a User Interface for mobile applications and devices
Nicky Hickman of InglisJane had undertaken and published a research in November 2009, aimed at explaining why and when Voice as User Interface (VUI) does work for mobile users, and what type of mobile customers they are.
The aim of the research was to answer two key questions:
- Has Voice as a User Interface finally come of age?
- If so, what does this mean for mobile apps and devices and for their designers, developers and users?
During the research it quickly became clear that VUI is best viewed as two types of interface:
- Simple VUI – Highly structured, command through words very simple and limited vocabulary. The application or device simply recognises words.
- Intelligent VUI – Natural, intuitive voice interactions with a wide vocabulary. The application or device understands sentences, context and goal.
Whilst it is clear that Simple VUI can now be used in mobile apps and devices as part of the user-experience, it is also clear that Intelligent VUI, is some way off becoming a real part of mass market mobile user-experience. If we consider that Simple VUI is ‘the user thinking like the machine’ where as Intelligent VUI is ‘the machine thinking like the user’, then it seems likely that we will end up with neither Intelligent nor Simple VUI, rather some kind of hybrid. VUI technology will develop, and will make use of intelligence in the network, and multi-sensory user interfaces in mobile. The complexity of this indicates that humans will not be able to design and develop these services alone, instead we will need the cloud to do it for us.