Posted: 22/07/20

Dublin, 22 July 2020: Conversational AI devices like Google Home, Alexa and Siri are quickly becoming commonplace in homes across the world, but how will their role evolve in the coming years? Academics and industry experts from Austria, Brazil, Spain, Canada, Ireland, and the UK will come together on July 22nd to host the second Conversational User Interfaces (CUI) Conference to explore the areas that need to be improved upon to ensure accessibility across all demographics and nationalities. 

For instance, voice assistants have not been great at understanding people with accents, notably those whose first language isn’t English, but even Irish accents have tripped up assistants like Siri in the past. UCD researchers will be presenting research that details their study on the psychological effects poor user experiences have on people who use English as a second language. 

Even when the AI can understand what we’re asking, sometimes we struggle with what to ask it. Researchers at the University of Nottingham have done experiments with assistants who suggest some options to the user and promote a dialogue. IBM researchers in Brazil are taking interactive AI to the museum and have created systems that have full on conversations with guests about the context of the artwork on display.

Professor Ben Cowan is co-founder of CUI and an expert in AI Conversational Systems. Last year in an interview with Tech Central, he discussed the important role voice assistants will play in combating loneliness and acting as companions for the elderly. This year, submissions deal with how to make these AI assistants more accessible to everyone. 

Prof Cowan comments on the future of these systems and how we have to make sure they work for all, “It’s not difficult to see how conversational AI devices in the near future may play a role in many parts of our lives. They will be there helping us to reinforce good habits, helping us in our homes and cars, advising us on decisions, while also providing entertainment through games and conversations. It’s therefore crucial that all people feel they can work with these agents.”

CUI 2020, which is being hosted virtually this year on July 22-24, will discuss cutting edge technology on themes of assistants for children, address gender bias in the voices used, and promote inclusivity to improve the technology as it’s developing. As a result of the switch to an online venue, the number of attendees has grown from 60 to 500.

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