TorCHI  Toronto Region Computer Human Interaction

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Speech and Hands-free Interaction: Myths, Challenges, and Opportunities 
by Prof. Cosmin Munteanu, U. of T.

Date: Monday, May 14, 2018

Time: 6:45pm: Networking | 7pm: Presentation
Location: Bahen Building, 40 St George St, Room 1210

Cost: Free for Active Members, RSVP Required
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ABSTRACT: HCI research has for long been dedicated to better and more naturally facilitating information transfer between humans and machines. Unfortunately, humans' most natural form of communication, speech, is also one of the most difficult modalities to be understood by machines – despite, and perhaps, because it is the highest-bandwidth communication channel we possess. While significant research efforts, from engineering, to linguistic, and to cognitive sciences, have been spent on improving machines' ability to understand speech, the HCI community has been relatively timid in embracing this modality as a central focus of research. This can be attributed in part to the unexpected variations in error rates when processing speech, in contrast with often-unfounded claims of success from industry, but also to the intrinsic difficulty of designing and especially evaluating speech and natural language interfaces. As such, the development of interactive speech-based systems is mostly driven by engineering efforts to improve such systems with respect to largely arbitrary performance metrics, often void of any user-centered design principles or consideration for usability or usefulness.

The goal of this interactive seminar is to engage the HCI community in reviewing the current state of speech and natural language research, to dispel some of the myths surrounding speech-based interaction, as well as to provide an opportunity for researchers and practitioners to learn more about how speech recognition and speech synthesis work, what are their limitations, and how they could be used to enhance current interaction paradigms. Through this, we hope that HCI researchers and practitioners will envision new ways to combine recent advances in speech processing with user-centred principles in designing more usable and useful speech-based interactive systems.

BIO:  Cosmin Munteanu is an Assistant Professor at the Institute for Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology at University of Toronto Mississauga, and Co-Director of the Technologies for Ageing Gracefully lab at University of Toronto. His area of expertise is at the intersection of Human-Computer Interaction, Automatic Speech Recognition, Natural User Interfaces, Mobile Computing, Ethics, and Assistive Technologies, having dedicated the past two decades to investigating the human factors of interacting with information-rich media and intelligent technologies. His main research goals are to facilitate natural, meaningful, and safe interactions between people and digital media and devices. Cosmin's multidisciplinary interests include speech and natural language interaction for mobile devices, mixed reality systems, learning technologies for marginalized users, usable privacy and cyber-safety, assistive technologies for older adults, and ethics in human-computer interaction research. URL:

Workshop attendees should bring some paper, pens, and a device (phone or tablet) which has a voice activated digital assistant.

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