Creating Better Human-to-Machine Interaction

Cognitive correction and creating better human-to-machine interaction

The lifetime of the computer has been marked by an ongoing struggle to communicate with the machine. When two human conversational participants come from different languages, true communication only occurs when one can learn to speak in the language of the other. At the beginning of the history of computation, it was the human who had to use the language of the machine; early programmers expressed themselves in binary. But over time, we built better interfaces. Binary machine code was replaced by languages employing commands that took the form of words. Typed command-line interfaces gave way to graphical interfaces and abstractions of file systems that suggested physical space. Commands took the form of mouse or swipe gestures. And now, the maturation of natural language processing (NLP) technologies means that we have started to “talk” to our phones, our cars and our toys. Through these technologies, we are being introduced to digital assistants and textual interfaces that empower us to help ourselves. Designing these systems requires overcoming certain challenges, of course. Cognitive ergonomics is a design philosophy recognizing that just as an ergonomic keyboard might bend so that the user’s wrists do not have to, a system’s design should bend so that the user’s natural processes for accomplishing a task do not have to. More and more, users expect not to be forced to bend to communicate to a computer. When the communication takes the form of natural language, people would prefer to be able to converse as if the dialogue partner were another human. A move away from “interactive responses” and toward “dialogue,” however, entails more than just a shift in thinking away from menus and keyword detection. Designing systems for natural human communication is challenging; dialogue breaks the “rules.” For example, it is not news to anyone who […]