UCLIC Research Seminar Series

UCLIC Research Seminar 22nd of May: Joel Fischer (University of Nottingham) on "The trouble with Alexa: voice interfaces and conversation design"
Joel Fischer, University of Nottingham

Title

UCLIC Research Seminar 22nd of May: Joel Fischer (University of Nottingham) on "The trouble with Alexa: voice interfaces and conversation design"

Abstract

In this talk I will present our conversation analytic study of recordings of people's talk with Alexa in several homes in the UK, developed with colleagues Martin Porcheron and Stuart Reeves. I will examine fragments of Alexa-talk to show key features of the interaction of importance to those seeking to build better dialogue systems, including 1) just how the interaction is embedded in and accountable to the social order of the home, 2) how Alexa-responses are treated as resources to get things done in interaction, and 3) how better designed responses enable the user's next moves. In conclusion I will table some provocations for designers, including positing that conceptualising voice interfaces as "conversational" is more often than not misleading, and suggesting a humbling reframing — designers should instead emphasise helping people "get stuff done" in interaction by focusing on response design.

Biography

I'm an associate professor at the School of Computer Science, University of Nottingham, UK, where I am a member of the Mixed Reality Lab. My research bridges Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), bringing together human-centred design with computational methods to support human activities and reasoning in collaborative settings. I'm particularly interested in how interactive technology can be designed to support, (or disrupt) collocated people interacting face-to-face. My research approach is multidisciplinary, drawing on ethnography, participatory design, prototyping, and studies of technology deployments. I am the Nottingham lead on the EPSRC A-IoT project on the design of interaction mechanisms and user interfaces for a future Autonomous Internet of Things (A-IoT). I am PI on the Microsoft co-funded EPSRC industrial CASE on HCI for healthcare, robotics, automation and the future of work, the RoboClean: Human-Robot Collaboration for Allergen-Aware Factory Cleaning, and a Unilever project AI-enhanced domestic interaction. My research has been published in leading conferences and journals in HCI (CHI, ToCHI UbiComp, CSCW) and AI (AAMAS, IJCAI, JAIR), and has been awarded Best Paper awards at CHI 2013, AAMAS 2015, and CHI 2018.