What is the impact of smart speakers on our well-being?
With an expected global installed base of 325 million units in 2020 (Advanced Television, 2020), smart speakers continue to become increasingly present in households worldwide, especially among young adult consumers (Kinsella, 2019). As their popularity grows, however, so does the discussions around the potential dangers of these devices that speak like humans and share the intimacy of our homes.
From reports of children developing aggressive behaviours (Childwise, 2018) to studies on the perpetuation of sexist stereotypes (West, Kraut, Ei Chew, 2018), our interactions with smart speakers are accompanied by a series of risks. Given this scenario, this project proposes a repertoire of meaningful voice interactions to mitigate those dangers and foster well-being instead.
The 7 Dangers of Voice Interactions
To achieve this, a categorisation of seven dangers of voice interactions was created based on literature review: impoliteness, aggressiveness, gender stereotyping, exposure, shallow mindedness, emotional dependency and social detachment. Each danger was analysed in order to define which of three fundamental human needs they harm: autonomy, competence and relatedness. According to the Self Determination Theory, people experience well- being when these three needs are satisfied (Ryan & Deci, 2000).
In addition to this categorisation, a phase of exploratory research was also conducted, combining established research methods such as user interviews and observation with emerging More-Than-Human Design approaches (Giaccardi & Redström, 2020) focused on Thing Ethnography (Giaccardi, 2020). The result was a series of findings on the perspectives of users and devices that would not be accessible from literature alone. These insights inspired the ideation phase, where more than 70 ideas were created to prevent the dangers of current voice interactions with smart speakers.
After clustering and filtering, these ideas were tested with people by showing them videos depicting each interaction concept. Participants were asked to evaluate how the needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness would be affected, together with ranking the ideas and expressing their overall perceptions. The resulting data revealed the interaction concepts perceived as the most meaningful. These served as the basis for the final deliverable of this project, a repertoire of meaningful voice interactions.
The Repertoire of Meaningful Voice Interactions includes design guidelines, traps to avoid, in-depth analysis of the dangers of voice interactions and reflective questions to guide ideation. Its goal is to serve as a tool for designers and researchers involved in voice-related projects to foster well-being by designing more humane voice interactions. It was designed to be initially shared as an online platform and a booklet, but its content could take various forms beyond those.
The Repertoire Booklet can be downloaded here:
Childwise (2018, January 31). New insights into UK childhood in 2018. [online] Available at: http://www.childwise.co.uk/ uploads/3/1/6/5/31656353/childwise_press_release_-_vr_2018.pdf [Accessed 24 Jan. 2020]
Giaccardi, E. & Redström, J. (2020). Technology and More-Than-Human Design, Design Issues 36:4
Giaccardi E. (2020). Casting Things as Partners in Design: Towards a More-Than-Human Design Practice, in H. Wiltse (ed.) Relating to Things: Design, Technology and the Artificial. Bloomsbury.
Kinsella, B. (2019, June 21). Voice Assistant Demographic Data – Young Consumers More Likely to Own Smart Speakers While Over 60 Bias Toward Alexa and Siri. Voicebot. Retrieved from https://voicebot.ai/2019/06/21/voice-assistant-demographic-data-young-consumers- more-likely-to-own-smart-speakers-while-over-60-bias-toward-alexa-and-siri/
Research: Asia surpasses US as largest smart speaker market (2020, February 25). Advanced Television. Retrieved from https://advanced- television.com/2020/02/25/research-asia-surpasses-us-as-largest-smart-speaker-market
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), 68.
West, M., Kraut, R., & Ei Chew, H. (2019). I’d blush if I could: closing gender divides in digital skills through education.