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Voice Assistant for Practicing Conversations in New Languages
Voice UX
Conversational Design
Speed Dating
Ruchi Ookalkar
Pallavi Benawri
Sonali Tandon
1st in Student Design Competition
UXPA 2018
Chattie is a voice-based companion for practicing conversations in new languages. Having real-world conversation is commonly recognized as very helpful and useful way in language learning. We designed voice interface on a smart speaker to be used in practicing conversation in a new language. It is like an always-available person to talk to, and it allows users to utilize small pieces of time to learn. Check the article we published on UXmatters.



🎉We Won in UXPA 2018


Research, Design, Testsssss

User Research

Understand language learners and VUI users

We did literature reviews to find out the barriers in VUI and general characteristics of smart speaker users.
Survey was conducted to learn the difficulties in language learning.
Then we interviewed both groups to understand the reasons behind findings emerged from quantitative research.
Affinity wall of interview notes:
Click to see the document

Based on above research, we found the focus of competitive analysis on two things. The first is Language learning tools, equiped with oral practicing feature. The second is Learning strategies that our interviewee mentioned that they use practice conversations
We learnt that expressive phrases are learnt in using context:
“I remember them after I actually used them”
“Sometimes I wrote lines from movies, because I like them, and I think I may use them in a conversation some day”
To help user improve speaking, it is important to not only let them practice, but also provide resources for them to enrich their expressions in scenarios.
Design Goals
1. Practice conversations that are useful in real-life scenarios.
2. Expand vocabulary and phrases in oral language.
Design Constraints
1. People expect smart speakers are more intelligent than they are.
2. Recollection is a pain in language learning.
With the research results, we created a user persona, which is easy to remember and able to guide us through the design process.


A Peek at Chattie

Features align with design goals and contraints
Flow Maps
Dialog Script

How to practice conversation?

Scenario-based topics
“I am most motivated to learn phrases that are often used in real life, the useful language”
Ask proper questions to solicit practicing
To come up with captivating conversation, we had many rounds of speed tests with people. We iterate our design to encourage users speak more, continue the conversation in a natural flow.

How to introduce the features in a conversation flow?

Problem: Unlike GUI, voice App doesn’t have navigation bar or breadcrumb to show where the user is at. It is easy to get lost.
Reveal features on the go
Prompt navigation options, no more than three
Ask "What do you think of the App structure?" in user test

How to build Chattie’s personality?

Problem: It is reported that people usually talk to Alexa as if commanding a real assistant. However, a trusting encouraging friend is much more effective for learning purpose.
Interactivity: Ad-libs
After getting user feedback of “robot feeling”, we did more exploration, found ad-lib is a good way to signal “Got you”, and create a welcoming conversation.
Learning feedback based on user response
Being helpful when user stumbles
In user test with language learners, we found user stumbles often. They either don’t understand Chattie’s prompt, or do not have a clue of what to answer.
We design Chattie to allow a reasonable pause before the user replies, then offer explanation of the last sentence. If it still fails, Chattie would suggest to do something else, such as listening to a sample answer.

How to handle unexpected user response?

It is not possible to exhaust all kinds of edge cases. We designed some fallbacks for exceptions with information learnt from books and tests. And we are looking forward to more data to improve.
Provide alternative information
Guess ambiguous pronunciation, and explain


My Philosophy

I think interactions with voice interface is in between of talking to real assistant and typing a command line for a machine. It leaves an open line for user input, and the format of input is not restricted to one syntax. Meanwhile, as users are speaking and hearing human language, they expect more personal touch than interacting with GUI, which involves more emotional design.
I learnt designing VUI is fundamentally the same as GUI, following human-centered design approaches. This project strength my design flexibility and deepen my understanding of design approaches. Even though the deliverables are different from any projects I am familiar with, while looking for solutions I should keep sharp about the goals and the usage of each technique.