Illustration of the photophone's transmitter.
Illustration of the photophone's transmitter. (source: Wikimedia Commons)

In episode four of the O’Reilly Bots podcast, Pete Skomoroch and I speak with Cathy Pearl, director of user experience at Sensely, and author of the forthcoming O’Reilly book “Designing Voice User Interfaces.” She’s also a speaker at O’Reilly’s upcoming Bot Day on October 19, 2016, in San Francisco.

We begin with some differences between VUIs and conventional UIs. Pearl points out that “the key to conversational design is anticipating how people actually speak, not how we want them to speak.”

The Amazon Echo, which we demonstrated in detail in episode 3, keeps coming up as a totally new mode of user interface; not only is it an exclusively voice-based interface with no built-in screen, but it’s also fundamentally social, intended for use in common spaces. Like Siri, the Echo has careful persona design, with subtle signals that help users figure out how to interact with it (as well as keeping them entertained).

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Pete and I stage a dramatic reading from Sensay, a chatbot that connects users with expert advice.