Exploring voice applications for user assistance

Voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Apple Siri have been around long enough to become much relied-on aides for millions of users. They also offer great opportunities for user assistance. However, while the tools are already out there, the tc community has yet to fully seize these possibilities.

Text by Alan Houser


Image: © mikkelwilliam/istockphoto.com

"Alexa: Who is the Chancellor of Germany?"

"The Chancellor of Germany is Angela Merkel."

"Alexa: When was she born?"

"Angela Merkel was born on July 17th, 1954."

This natural-language spoken interaction happened very recently, between me and a device  the Amazon Echo voice assistant in my home. "Alexa" is the trigger word for the Alexa; I can interact with the Amazon Echo at any time by saying the trigger word. Calling the device by name  Alexa  contributes to the feeling that the interaction is natural.

In yesterday's science fiction, humans often engage computers by voice. And why not? Virtually all humans are capable of speech. We use our voices all day, every day, to interact with each other. Speech is perhaps the most natural, easiest way for most humans to communicate with each other.

When humans engage computers, however, voice interaction has been relatively rare. Voice has ...