Smit Desai's Dissertation Defense

Smit Desai

Smit Desai will defend his dissertation, "Designing Metaphor-fluid Voice User Interfaces." 

His committee includes Professor Michael Twidale, chair and co-director of research; Assistant Professor Jessie Chin, co-director of research; Professor Benjamin Cowan, University College Dublin; and Professor Christopher Peter Lueg.

Abstract: This dissertation investigates the use of metaphors in Voice User Interfaces (VUIs), with a focus on expanding beyond traditional human-centric metaphors to include non-human and fictional metaphors. The research explores how these metaphors shape user expectations, perceptions, and the functionality of VUIs, revealing the complexities of human-VUI interaction.

Through a multidisciplinary literature review, the study contextualizes metaphors within Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), highlighting their traditional role in simplifying user interfaces and shaping expectations. Unlike graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that employ metaphors like 'desktop' to aid user understanding, VUIs have predominantly utilized the 'humanness' metaphor to aid user engagement. This approach, while facilitating familiar interactions, often fails to capture the diverse, complex, and unexpected ways in which users perceive and interact with VUIs.

The design experience of developing VUIs intended to perform social roles, such as teachers, storytellers, and exercise coaches—especially for older adults—revealed how users perceive and interact with these interfaces. These investigations reveal a mismatch between the designed personas and user expectations, showcasing a fluid and context-dependent interpretation of VUI roles that is heavily influenced by personal experiences and societal norms.

Furthermore, the findings from this dissertation highlight a strong preference among users for non-human and fictional metaphors, which help mitigate some of the ethical and practical limitations inherent in human-like metaphors. This research demonstrates that user perceptions of VUIs are significantly shaped by the type of metaphor used (human, non-human, and fictional), the context of the conversation (commands, sociality, information seeking, and error recovery), and the domain of interaction (e.g., health and finance). Consequently, it suggests that VUIs should adapt based on these factors, moving away from simplistic system personas toward contextually aware metaphor-fluid design.

For any questions, please contact Smit Desai.