Chatbots and Intelligent Assistants


Multi-Platform Conversational User Interface Design

Photo Credit: Valery Kenski

Conversational User Interface

A Conversational User Interface (CUI or Conversational UI) is more than just speech or text recognition. It is an intelligent interface that combines natural language understanding and/or text recognition with contextual awareness and artificial intelligence. 

You will hear the term "chatbot" applied to both keyboard/text-based interactions and a voice user interfaces (VUI) in the market. The voice user interface (VUI) takes the form of an in-home assistant (Google Now, Amazon Alexa), an in-app or in-device assistant (Siri, Cortana), or IoT (Internet of Things: i.e. remote control that accepts voice commands). All are computer programs designed to conduct an intent-driven conversation.

Photo Credit:  Francesco Esposito

Photo Credit: Francesco Esposito

Photo Credit:  Tua Ulamac

Photo Credit: Tua Ulamac

Numerous platforms are available to support this advanced human-computer interaction. The market is experiencing a flood of companies developing chatbots. We experienced a similar new company saturation with IVR (Interactive Voice Response) back in the day. And, as many learned back then, the ones that use good design in their products will be the companies that survive.

Text-Based Chatbots

The asynchronous nature of a text-conversation is what distinguishes this interface from a traditional voice conversation. The user has the benefit of auto-correct and taking the time to think about the request. Developers have the advantage of offering a visual confirmation when a backend lookup is taking place.  

Intelligent Assistants

Intelligent Assistants must have perceptive hearing. There is typically a trigger phrase that will "wake up" the device ("Alexa","Hey Siri"). While this interaction may be command based, there is still the element of conversational turn-taking that must be considered. 

Experience Matters...

At Versay, designing compelling conversational experiences is core to what we do and has been for the past fifteen years. The conversations we have designed and built over the years have been focused on replacing legacy touch-tone interactive voice response (IVR) systems with technology-agnostic solutions, in many cases (but not all) powered by advanced speech recognition software. We have improved enterprise customer care over the telephone by making these systems more intuitive to use and, in so doing, we have advanced best practices informed by human-computer interaction and usability research, learnings from cognitive linguistics, and speech science. Our extensive background in designing and developing these conversational user interfaces will inform what to do and what not to do when it comes to designing successful and engaging interactions with chatbots and intelligent assistants.