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Our first relationship with an SA?

January 30, 2009

ejTalk is all about long term relationship issues with conversational Synthetic Agents (SA). And clearly the kinds of encounters we have today with speech technology on the phone are not likely to be much more than quick inquiries (when is my flight?) or simple commands (move $200 to my checking account.)

Where do we:

  • spend large chunks of time, eyes and hands busy, and yearn for a way to make that time productive?
  • already have a nearly anthropomorphic relationship with an embodied technology?
  • forge a relationship lasting for years?
  • care about an object enough to bathe and groom it and take it to the doctor?

Why, of course, I’m talking about the car.

Many of my cars have had names. Many times I have spoken to my car, even though I knew it did not in any sense perceive my speech. In years past I have had cars that literally spoke to me. Definitely a one-sided interaction, but one that I grew to rely on so much that it led to me running out of gas with a subsequent car: The new one didn’t tell me it was hungry!

Now we have the technology to have the car speak and listen, such as systems like Sync where you press a button and say some “atomic” command (with the attendant cognitive load). But, with the addition of just little more (better microphone array, a brain … like ejTalker, an awareness of its environment) it is possible to converse and build a richer working relationship. You and the car will form a common ground. You and the car will automatically (pun?) grow to understand each other better over time:

  • Better raw speech recognition
  • Better anticipation of what you want to do
  • Better awareness of your preferences

This car/SA will become a worthy partner. It will remember stuff like:

  • Who you call
  • What phrases you tend to use
  • Things you ask it to remember
  • When you last got an oil change
  • Your supervisor’s birthday

With all this conversation won’t it be distracting like a phone call? A very good question. Short answer is no and perhaps the opposite! But that is for another entry coming soon….