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Title: System-initiated digressions and hidden menu options in automated spoken dialogue systems
Author: Wilkie, Jenny G. M.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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Automated speech recognition technology is increasingly used in the mass-market domain of self-service telephone applications. A dilemma facing designers of menu-based applications is where to place new or less frequently requested service options within the call-flow and how to incorporate these with the existing dialogue interface design. The research detailed in this thesis proposes the use of system-initiated digressions as an alternative strategy to that of explicitly adding all options to the main menu listing of a speech-driven automated service. The purpose of these digressions was to deliver information about the availability of a new product or service option that could be triggered by using the relevant spoken keyword at the main menu. The keyword itself, however, was not explicitly mentioned (i.e. remained ‘hidden’) as an option in the existing main menu listing; therefore, callers had to infer that the option was available and then initiate the request themselves rather than passively select it from the menu listing. The dialogue engineering investigation presented here centres on three main themes: the location of the digression in the dialogue, the turn-taking strategy employed and the type of register (wording) adopted.  Contrasting system-initiated digressions were introduced into the dialogue of an existing real-world automated telephone banking service. In a series of four progressive empirical experiments, participants were invited to use the automated service to carry out banking tasks and were subjected to digressive dialogues in the form of banking product offers. The purpose of the experiments was to evaluate the impact of deploying system-initiated digressions on user attitudes toward the usability of the core service. Furthermore, detailed analyses were also performed to determine the effect that varying location, strategy and register in the digressions may have on participant attitudes. The conclusions drawn from this research support the introduction of system-initiated digressions in automated services. However, issues regarding users’ mental models of menu-driven automated services and their expectations of the computer’s social behaviour were identified in the research: participants had difficulties with correctly interpreting the concept of ‘hidden’ menu options and were sensitive to the more forceful registers adopted in the system-initiated digressions. The findings from the four experiments are presented.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available