Live from Confab: Compelling Content for Conversational Interfaces

Compelling Content for Conversational Interfaces, by Phillip Hunter

Confab 2018 logoWe have a long way to go to create voice interfaces that don’t cause a question about creating a PBJ to turn into an existential thought process.

There’s a lot of awareness and interesting uses of conversational interfaces. But we’re just getting started.

Modes for Conversational Interfaces

Most of us are familiar with Voice, but there’s more to it:

  • Bimodal (voice-in, audio out)
  • Multi-modal
  • Inter-modal (switching back and forth)
  • Cross-modal

What is Conversation?

It’s an exchange of meaning and information. Conversation helps people relate, share emotion, conduct transactions, fill the time, and amuse one another.

But conversational interfaces are not there yet. They can amuse, and they can conduct simple transactions. They can handle reminders and messages and updates. They can handle lights, music, sleep aids.

We can’t yet handle explanations, complex meaning and subtlety, or real conversation. The voice industry isn’t there yet.

How Do You Create Conversation?

Goldilocks is a great example of a perfect story.

  • Story – it has narrative
  • Rhythm – the right repetitions, the rule of 3
  • Life lessons
  • Feeling our language
  • Experimentation
  • Finding balance – intersections

We need to be Ginger Rogers: do everything better than expected. And do it backwards, in high heels.

We don’t learn words alone as kids. We learn when to respond. When things are and aren’t said. We learn sensitivity toward the people we’re interacting with, so we can anticipate or interpret.¬†Expectations and rules about content and meta-information are ingrained from childhood. But they’re also subtle and challenging.

Opportunities in Conversational Interfaces

There’s a lot more we can do with content for voice assistants.

  • Fresh content
  • More contextual
  • Personal and relatable
  • Pleasant surprises
  • Faster, easier, more enjoyable

We need to think about what the user already knows, where they’re coming from, and what we can give them in the first 10 seconds.

Advice for Creation

Create content that matters:

  • For transactions, consider what the goal is, and what’s¬†required to make that happen
  • For information: what does the user want to know, and in what order/structure? Will they want more?

Interface is challenging.

  • It’s not a matter of “zero interface.”
  • We need meaning and clarity
  • There needs to be a naturalness and predictability

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