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Principles for Improving Interaction in Telephone-Based Interfaces
EPSRC project GR/L66373
Oct/97 - Oct/2000
Telephone-based interfaces (TBIs) are an increasingly important method of interacting with computers systems (such as electronic banking and voicemail). Telephones themselves are also incorporating greater functionality (such as address books and call forwarding). In both cases this extra functionality may be rendered useless if usablity is not considered. One common usability problem is users getting lost when navigating through hierarchies of options of functions. This may mean that some functions are not used or that users cannot the goals they wish.
The innovative aspect of this proposal is to use structured non-speech sounds (such as short pieces of music) to enhance the output of information in TBIs. Sound can present information rapidly without getting in the way of any speech output. I will investigate the use of sound to provide navigation cues to stop users getting lost and also to provide richer output methods to create more flexible interaction techniques. To ensure effectiveness i will perform full usability evalustion. TBI designers will benefit from this research because guidelines produced will enable them to create more powerful interfaces. End users will benefit because the resulting telephones and telephon services will be more usable.
Earcons and telephone-based interfaces
We have done several experiments to investigate the use of earcons for representing hierarchical information. This has applications for telephone-based interfaces (such as phone-banking or voicemail), the design of mobile phones and blind computer users. Telephone-based interfaces (TBIs) are becoming an increasingly important method for interacting with computer systems. The telephone is an ubiquitous device and is many people’s primary method of entry into the information infrastructure. Access to an increasing number of services is being offered over the telephone, such as voice-mail, electronic banking and even Web pages. The rapidly increasing use of mobile telephones means that people access these services at many different times and places. Telephones themselves are now also incorporating greater functionality (such as multi-party calling, address books, diaries or call forwarding). The provision of this extra functionality may be rendered useless if usability issues are not considered.
Little use has been made of structured non-speech sounds in TBIs. Our work has shown that the use of such sounds can increase the bandwidth of communication between the system and the user, allowing a richer interaction. These ‘multimedia’ telephone interfaces are more usable than their current eqivalents. Sound has many advantages. For example, it is good for communicating information quickly. Unlike speech, non-speech sound is universal; the user is not tied to one language, which is important for the increased international use of computer systems. There is also great potential for the results of this work in other non-graphical interfaces such as those for visually disabled people and those where working conditions or protective clothing mean that a screen cannot be used.
These pages will tell you more about this general area of research (also have a look at Gregory Leplatre's web pages). There is a hypercard stack full of earcons to download too. We have several more sets of earcons that we can supply if you contact us.
There is an initial java demo of how temporal cues can be used for navigation (this made up experiment 2 of our project). We then developed a detailed Java simulation of how sounds might be used for navigation in a real mobile phone (which formed experiment 3 of our project). This can be downloaded - please let us know if you use it.
To enable interface designers who are not sound experts to develop sonically-enhanced interfaces we have developed a sophisticated tool to allow the creation of hierarchical earcons. You can download this - again let us know if you use it.
In the final stages of the project we investigated soundgraphs to present complex, continous data. We looked at presenting stock market data on a mobile telephone. The value of the stock was mapped to the pitch of the note, so that users heard a change in pitch over time. Full details can be found in the paper published. If you are interested we can give you the Java application we used to test our ideas.
The main publications in this area are shown below, the numbered items were produced as part of the project (the group publications list has the most up to date complete list of papers):
Prof Stephen Brewster
Department of Computing Science
University of Glasgow
Glasgow, G12 8QQ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)141 330 4966
Fax: +44 (0)141 330 4913
Last Modified: 29 January 2003