Susan Boyce of Tellme visited the Project54 lab and gave a talk entitled “Designing for voice search.” The talk touched upon several Tellme projects, including 1-800-CALL-411, a service that allows callers to search for businesses, buy movie tickets, etc. Impressively, 75% of incoming calls to this number are handled completely by the Tellme speech software, without any human help. This is of great importance to Tellme, because clients who deploy directory assistance (or similar) voice systems pay only for calls that are fully handled and not handed off to a human operator.
Susan pointed out that companies such as Tellme (a Microsoft subsidiary), Yahoo and Google compete heavily in the mobile world of voice search. They all believe that, as mobile phones get more powerful and data plans become cheaper, mobile phones will take over from laptops as the primary gadget that’ll let you get driving directions, buy tickets, order pizza, etc. Actually, since Domino’s is a Tellme client, you can already download an application for some cellphones that’ll let you order pizza with the click of a button (or a voice command). You can even order the “usual” – not bad!
Susan also talked about the multimodal nature of mobile phones: user interface designers can take advantage of the phone’s display for information output while allowing you to talk to the phone for information input. Not having to rely exclusively on speech for information output is nice in many applications, for example when you’re asked to select an item from a list (e.g. a business from a list of close matches to your query).
After the talk Susan had a chance to check out our driving simulator and continue the conversation about speech interfaces with several of my students.
Thanks for visiting Susan and for giving a great talk!