What voice UI is good for (and what it isn’t)

“Bill Buxton introduced the concept of a “place-ona”, adapting the concept of a persona (which we all love to hate) to show how a location can place limits on the type of interactions that makes sense. There is no “one best input” or “one best output”. It all depends on where you are, which in turn defines what you have free to use.

At a very simple level, humans have hands, eyes, ears and a voice. (Let’s ignore the ability to ‘feel’ vibrations as that’s alert-only for the moment). Let’s look at some real world scenarios:

  • The “in a library wearing headphones” placeona is “hands free, eyes free, voice restricted, ears free”.
  • The “cooking” placeona is “hands dirty, eyes free, ears free, voice free”.
  • The “nightclub” placeona is “hands free, eyes free, ears busy (you can’t hear), voice busy (you likely can’t speak/can’t be heard)”.
  • The “driving” placeona is “hands busy, eyes busy, ears free, voice free”.

Based on the above, you can see which scenarios voice UI are useful in and in general the role of voice as an input mechanism.”

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