W3C Workshop on Conversational Applications


A summary of my experience bringing accessibility/usability input to the 
W3C Workshop on Conversational Applications -- Use Cases and 
Requirements for New Models of Human Language to Support Mobile 
Conversational Systems (http://www.w3.org/2010/02/convapps/agenda.html) 

(I used a court reporter microphone to take minutes by speech for one of 
the sessions, and several people were interested in how that all worked.)


*5-minute paper presentation:
*- I Stressed that users who are disabled are a good testbed and that 
accessibility improves usability, e.g. disabled user who can't use her 
hands, able user who's talking on the phone while making dinner.*
*- Mentioned three specific users they could picture and I could refer 
back to -- Jill, who has repetitive strain injuries and finds it painful 
to type, Don, who is a quadriplegic, and Jason, who has memory problems 
after a traumatic head injury (these are all people I know)
- Summarized the use cases in the paper

*Use cases:*
We all came up with use cases and spent a lot of time discussing them -- 
these were mine. The first three are probably the most important. They 
were among the 19 we voted on.

1. Speech commands are hard to remember, especially when they're 
inconsistent across the tasks the user wants to carry out
2. Users need a central way to discover, adjust, organize and share 
speech commands (or any type of input command). Users need to be able to 
use this to easily standardize like commands across programs.

1. Processes sometimes change the mouse/cursor focus in ways that 
confuse people. This is especially bad for non-mouse users because the 
next action is less likely to include cursor placement.
2. Users need a way to tell the computer not to change focus, change 
focus for critical actions and/or to put the focus back

1. Users are afraid to use the system because something might go wrong
2. Users need an ability to undo everything, including actions. In cases 
where actions are difficult to undo, such as submit, users need the 
ability to mark such actions, for instance, make all submit buttons red.

1. It's difficult to get users to correct speech commands correctly.
2. A non-cumbersome process like Try again, Change to. This would also 
better allow software makers to collect information that will improve 

1. It frustrates people when the computer gets things wrong that they 
wouldn't get wrong
2. Users need a mechanism to add their intelligence when needed

1. People who can't use their hands need to be able to use speech for 
2. Users need standard ways to open, move among and close programs (or 
better yet, a good default that can be adjusted).

1. The speech recognizer sometimes get overwhelmed, for instance when 
someone else nearby starts talking, and is unavailable to the user as it 
deals with the extra noise. This frustrates users.
2. Users an easy way to zero out the speech recognizer. A keyboard 
shortcut would be best.

*None of my use cases made the top five that were written up as 
proposals at the end of the workshop, but elements of the first and 
second ended up in the written proposals. As our small group talked 
about the third one, Matt mentioned he was going to push something 
similar in another working group.

People resonated with the idea that the user needs more control, 
including the ability to disable and enable sets of speech commands on 
the fly. Others were proposing mechanisms that would allow systems to do 
this. I pointed out that that the user needs similar control.

There were several times during the workshop where people mentioned to 
me or generally that they hadn't realized usability was so important. At 
the end when we all went around and said a few words about the workshop 
three of the dozen people called out usability as something they had 
gained more insight about. 

At one point we were talking about the importance of having good 
defaults rather than prescribed wording. Paolo suggested that it would 
be good to tap the accessibility groups for defaults like these.


Kimberly Patch
Redstart Systems, Inc.
(617) 325-3966

www.redstartsystems.com <http://www.redstartsystems.com>
- making speech fly

Blog: Patch on Speech
Twitter: RedstartSystems

Received on Thursday, 24 June 2010 19:09:54 UTC