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This content is taken from the UAL Creative Computing Institute & Institute of Coding's online course, Introduction to Conversational Interfaces. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 15 secondsTalking to technology is becoming part of our everyday, whether it's asking for information, keeping us entertained or helping us get where we want to be. Voice assistance and smart speakers are now a firm feature in the modern home, and voice-based technology is finding its way into other aspects of our lives. How do we feel about talking to our devices, and what impact could this have on the world we live in? Welcome to introduction to conversational interfaces. In this course, we'll explore what conversational interfaces are and the roles and skills needed to design great products and services. We'll explore how voice technology works and the ethical considerations around designing conversational interfaces.

Skip to 1 minute and 9 secondsWe'll meet experts working in the field of voice, and you'll hear about the tools and principles they use to create successful products. Learn how technology firms are expanding the use of voice activated devices and what we can expect to see in the future. Plus, you'll share your experiences of interacting with voice technology and explore ideas for making your own prototypes. From chat bots to home assistance to voice activated appliances, you'll get a grasp of how conversational interfaces are changing our day to day and how you might be able to get involved in shaping the voice-based technologies of the future. It's time to get started.

Welcome to the course

Hello, and welcome to this introduction to conversational interfaces.

Digital creatives are often thinking about how technology is developing, and how our tools, skills and expectations are changing alongside it.

In the first step, you were challenged to answer a question about how you could tell if there was a person or a machine on the other end of a conversation.

What did you think?

You may have some ideas about what makes a conversation partner real, or opinions on whether machines should declare themselves as artificial devices before you begin using them. These kinds of issues are a great start to thinking about conversational interfaces.

So, what do we mean when we use this term?

When the first modern computers were created, the only way to interact with them was via the command line, because computers only understood commands, or system code. This was manageable for some users, but hard for most.

The computing revolution of the 80s saw the introduction of graphical user interfaces, which used visual metaphors to reproduce system commands. This made interacting with computers easier for many users because it used familiar ideas and images to send commands to the computer.

You want to put a document in the trash? Use the pointing arrow (directed by your finger on a piece of hardware) to drag the icon that looks like a piece of paper into the icon that looks like a trash can.

But as computer processing speed has grown, the ability for computers to “understand” human language has improved to the point that for many tasks, a user can speak instructions to the computer, instead of pointing at them or typing them as code. Increasingly, the computer can reply using natural language, too. This makes dealing with devices more accessible to a range of users who may not have been able to use other interfaces.

We call anything that uses this capability a Conversational Interface. You might encounter these interfaces as text chat online or via mobile devices, when contacting a company by phone, or even in your own living room smart speaker. They are increasingly commonplace and sometimes, hard to spot.

Conversational interfaces are changing the way users interact with technology, services and companies. Plus, they raise interesting questions about service design, ethics and accessibility.

In this course, we’ll be looking at all these aspects of conversational interfaces, and thinking about how they can be designed and developed effectively and responsibly.

So, back to the original question: How can you tell if it’s a human or a machine? By the end of this course, you’ll have the insights, skills, and confidence to answer that question, and indeed follow up with more of your own.

We hope you’ll enjoy learning with us during this course. Let’s get started.

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This video is from the free online course:

Introduction to Conversational Interfaces

UAL Creative Computing Institute