About the Workshop

This one-day workshop intends to bring together both academics and industry practitioners to explore collaborative challenges in speech interaction. Recent improvements in speech recognition and computing power has led to conversational interfaces being introduced to many of the devices we use every day, such as smartphones, watches, and even televisions. These interfaces allow users to get things done, often by just speaking commands, relying on a reasonably well understood single-user model. While research on speech recognition is well established, the social implications of these interfaces remain underexplored, such as how we socialise, work, and play around such technologies, and how these might be better designed to support collaborative collocated talk-in-action. Moreover, the advent of new products such as the Amazon Echo, which are positioned as supporting multi-user interaction in collocated environments such as the home, makes exploring the social and collaborative challenges around these products, a timely topic. In the workshop, we will review current practices and reflect upon prior work on studying talk-in-action and collocated interactions. We wish to begin a dialogue that takes on the renewed interest in research on spoken interaction with devices, grounded in the existing practices of the CSCW community.

Workshop Background

Many of the recent personal mobile devices released to market, such as smartphones, tablets, and watches, have embraced the use of automatic speech recognition as a viable form of device interaction. The devices typically feature a speech interface, often referred to as a conversational agent or intelligent personal assistant, that embodies the idea of a virtual butler. These systems listen to spoken commands and queries, and respond accordingly by performing a broad range of tasks on the user’s behalf, such as to provide facts and news, and set reminders and alarms. Furthermore, the systems are often anthropomorphised by being given names (e.g. Cortana or Siri) and endowed with humanlike behaviours such as humour. However, recent research shows that despite grand promises made by manufacturers, existing commercial systems fail to meet users’ expectations.

Amazon and Google have further embraced this trend by launching standalone hardware in the form of the Amazon Echo and Google Home. These devices are specifically designed to be placed in social spaces such as kitchens tables, within everyday settings such as the home. While these devices function in much the same way as their mobile equivalents, they rely entirely upon speech for interaction to support their broad range of abilities. Given the growing IoT trend, it is hardly surprising that these devices have begun to support the ability to control connected domestic appliances such as lights, thermostats, and kettles.

Given the ever-expanding abilities of the agents, the scope for their use and thus the range of social and collaborative contexts in which their use can become occasioned is also expanding. This provides a renewed impetus for research in HCI and CSCW to explore the practical and social implications of the use of these systems not just in the lab, but to explore the everyday use of conversational agents in vivo. Recently, researchers have begun to explore the use of personal assistants in public settings such as a café, or workplaces. Inspired by this recent work, this workshop seeks to explore the use, study, and design of conversational agents in social and collaborative settings.

Please send any questions relating to the workshop to porcheron@acm.org.

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