Listen, learn how to improve voice-enabled technology crucial to the future of healthcare

Devices that respond to someone’s voice and their specific need should be important in the future of healthcare. Although some companies have been actively developing tools that are voice enabled, it’s far from a mainstream concept. Businesses like Ubi, Apple through Siri, Nuance and, most recently Microsoft, are trying to change that. Tim Lynch, the […]

Devices that respond to someone’s voice and their specific need should be important in the future of healthcare. Although some companies have been actively developing tools that are voice enabled, it’s far from a mainstream concept. Businesses like Ubi, Apple through Siri, Nuance and, most recently Microsoft, are trying to change that.

Tim Lynch, the lead mobile and consumer product designer at Nuance, which helped develop S-Voice for Samsung, shared some thoughts on how to improve the quality of interactions.

Focus on end goal: creating simple content

People don’t want to speak to their devices as though they’re having a conversation, he noted. They want to get things done, like turning an oven on, raising the temperature and searching for a TV show. Speech should be viewed a natural way to do that. Focus on fragmented and structured demands.

Context is important

In a car, when people need to focus their attention in front of them, having voice interaction makes a lot of sense. But in other situations, the tasks might be too complicated for a simple voice command or just unnecessary.

Speech is not the solution, it is one of many

Speech should be used to support and augment things like texting, prompts and email, according to customers preferences. It’s valuable to support speech where it makes sense.

Natural language

This is probably the biggest challenge when it comes to how technology companies are building voice interaction for devices. The instinct for companies is to communicate in language that makes sense to them, not their customers. Lynch pointed out that natural language has no real definition. But he noted that it should be seen as a guide to build user trust. Companies should use natural language as a way to learn and interpret what users needs are. With the Internet of Things, connected devices offer a lot of opportunities to think of creative ways to invoke speech.

Errors are an opportunity

Errors can be a way to learn what users want. Some customers will want to test the limits of the technology and have fun with it. Companies would be wise to encourage that, said Lynch. If any aspect of voice interaction for devices On the other hand, inconsistency can erode trust. The fact that a device could have more than one user complicates things and that’s one challenge that developers will need to address.

[Photo from Flickr user Melvin Gaal]