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Tag: conversational UI

Humor and AI: Does it travel?

Localization Technology, Personalization and Design

Conversational interfaces such as chatbots and voice assistants present many localization challenges — humor, for example. And that’s not even considering if the original content was all that funny to begin with.The secret to AI comedy must be in the data Click To Tweet

Humor: The final frontier

“Are there any Scottish people in the audience?”

Always a great start to a presentation at a conference. The response I received was, “You’re going to show that Scottish Elevator Voice UI video, right?”

I wasn’t.

Instead, I used the top jokes from the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe as my opener to a workshop at ConverCon 18 on the subject of artificial intelligence (AI), personality, and conversational UI.

Of course, humor is an integral dimension of human personality and therefore part of that natural, conversational human-machine dialog. But humor has been called the final barrier for AI for good reason. There are many challenges.

I began my ConverCon workshop by telling the best joke from the Fringe.

“Working at the Jobcentre has to be a tense job — knowing that if you get fired, you still have to come in the next day.”

As soon as I recited the joke, I realized that it may not have been that funny to my global audience. Had they any idea what a Jobcentre is? It’s a British public service. In Ireland, the equivalent, an Intreo Centre, is offered by the Department of Work Affairs and Social Protection. In the United States, it might be called a WorkForce Center or One-Stop Center.

Conversational UI and the secret to comedy

Real US English examples of conversational interfaces, chatbots and AI can be tricky when it comes to humor.

Take this processing message from the Meekan scheduling robot on Slack. It makes a “witty” reference to hacking into TSA servers and No Fly Lists. I really winced at that one. I know what the TSA and No Fly Lists are, and I still didn’t get the joke.

Meekan scheduling robot on Slack (Image by Ultan O'Broin)

Meekan scheduling robot on Slack (Image by Ultan O’Broin)

This got me thinking about the challenges of humor and AI. If the secret to human comedy is timing, then the secret to AI comedy must be in the data, as well as the context.

Humor does have a place in conversational interaction, even in the most seemingly unlikely interactions, for example, Woebot. But humor needs to be done right.

Humor is not only the final frontier for AI, it’s a human personality trait that is easily lost in translation. Worse still, even in the original language, humor is not always that funny to everyone in a native audience. Of course, you don’t have to be Geert Hofstede to realize that humor doesn’t travel across cultures, but machines don’t get that. Yet.

So, as the localization industry rises to the challenge of dealing with AI, personality, humor, and the realization that no UI is the best UI of all, we can expect new talents will flourish to ensure that the conversational user experience resonates with the target audience. Do today’s translators need to have performing arts backgrounds or be comedians to enhance that local conversational interaction? I think storytelling skills are about to become hot property in every language.

Do today's translators need to have performing arts backgrounds or be comedians to enhance that local conversational interaction? Click To Tweet

Your punchline?

You may have other examples of humor and localization challenges from the world of technology. If so, share them in the comments!

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Vive La French Tech! Chatbots, French Style

Language, Localization Technology, Personalization and Design

A Chat About Bots

Conversational UI, that natural interaction between human and technology, is a hot topic worldwide, and the localization requirements for creating a great contextual natural user experience are fascinating and challenging, none more so than in the case of chatbots.

La French Tech. See https://www.facebook.com/LaFrenchTechEN/ for more information!

La French Tech. See https://www.facebook.com/LaFrenchTechEN/ for more information on the French technology startup and investment community.

As Arle Lommel from CommonSense Advisory says: Chatbots pose challenges fundamentally different from what is seen with traditional content. The shift to conversational structures and the need to embrace “messy” terminology are among these. Click To Tweet

There are other challenges too. Plan ahead.

What’s Going On Globally?

Here’s a great example from France by way of an article featuring Amina Esselimani, a top French user experience design thinker, published on the Prototypr blog: Conversational interface for chatbot & voicebot: the French touch.

The article itself gives good insight into why chatbots should be used, and the methodologies involved. I was fascinated by the human-oriented design language used by Amina to describe her work, using phrases such as “happy path” and “repair conversations.”

Her comments about using the “Wizard of Oz” design requirements technique, engaging with conversational style content experts, and iterative testing with real users really resonated too. We've moved from user-centered design to human-centered design, and dealing with how humans actually communicate and simulating that kind of exchange can indeed be very messy in any language! Click To Tweet

I also checked out some of the chatbot solutions Amina worked on, such as the Oui.SNCF bot. I wondered if it had a French personality (personality is a critical design element in conversational UI) and what the tone would be my questions about the ongoing SNCF rolling strikes.

Hofstede's six dimensions of national culture. A useful starting point, but real users doing real jobs in real places are the best way to determine the appropriate bot personality for the job to be done.

Hofstede’s six dimensions of national culture, in this case comparing France with Ireland and the United States of America. Hofstede’s work is a useful starting point when developing a bot personalit, but real users doing real jobs in real places are the best way to determine the appropriate bot personality for the job to be done.

All utterances were handled very diplomatically, I must say, even making sense of my mangled French language utterances!

Out.SNCF chatbot available in multiple languages too.

Out.SNCF chatbot is available in multiple languages too. I stuck with French!

Alexa en Français

You might also like to read Wired’s fascinating, and sometimes humorous artlcle, Inside Amazon’s Painstaking Pursuit to Teach Alexa French in the run up to its launch in France.

Amazon Echo (Alexa) launch advertisement.

Amazon Echo voice assistant was launched in France in June 2018. Alexa was trained to be speak and act “French”.


Cultural differences create conversational landmines. And you just can’t be sure that everyone will like you. As it turns out, that as true for people as it is for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Click To Tweet

More information on globalization methods for conversational UIs and chatbots?

To understand more of the challenges presented by chatbot and conversational UI design and the cultural considerations involved, then check out my SF Globalization presentation and handy checklist on the subject of chatbot design for  global and local audiences: “Alexa, Tell Me About Global Chatbot Design and Localization!”

All images by Utan O’Broin

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Conversational UI Language Design at LocWorld35

Language in Business, Language in the News, Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) team member (and Microsoft Alum) Karen Scipi (@karenscipi) presented on the subject of Conversational UI in the Enterprise at #LocWorld35 Silicon Valley. Karen covered the central importance of  language design for chatbots and other conversational user interfaces (CUIs) for global work use cases.

Karen Scipi presenting on Conversational UIs in the Enterprise at Localization World in Silicon Valley 2017 (Image credit: Olga)

Karen Scipi presenting on Conversational UIs in the Enterprise at Localization World in Silicon Valley 2017 (Image credit: Olga)

Karen even developed two chatbot integrations for Slack introducing her topic. One was in English, the other was in Italian.

Italian LocWorld Chatbot Conversation Example

Italian LocWorld Chatbot Conversation Example (Source: Karen Scipi)

What’s a Conversational UI?

Chatbots and the alike are a very hot topic, wrapped up in the artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and robotics part of technology’s evolution. However, user experience design insight and an empathy for how people interact with each other through technology in work, at play, or in everyday life makes the difference when creating a great user experience in any language.What could be more 'natural' than talking to a computer? Click To Tweet

CUI means we moved from a “user”-centric concept of design to a human-centric one. After all, what could be more “natural” that talking to a computer? Both humans and computers “converse” in dialog, and it’s the language design knowledge for such a conversation that’s critical to delivering a natural, human-like interaction between the two.

Examples of CUIs include Facebook Messenger, Slack bots, TelegramAmazon Echo and Alexa devices, and so on. Interaction can be via voice, SMS messaging, typing text on a keyboard, and so on.

In the enterprise there are a broad range of considerations and stakeholders that localization and UX pros must to consider. Fundamentally though, enterprise CUIs are about increasing participation in the user experience of work, making things simpler.

 

Oracle Conversational UI image showing the interaction and participation of humans and the cloud - in any language! (Source: OAUX)

Oracle Conversational UI image showing the interaction and participation of humans and the cloud – in any language! (Source: OAUX)

Localization of Conversational UIs

To an extent, the localization or language part of the CUI interaction is determined by the NLP support of the chatbot or other platform used: what languages it supports, how good the AI and ML parts are, and so on. However, language skills are at the heart of the conversational UI design, whether it’s composing that  user storyline for design flows or creating the prompts and messages seen by the human involved.

This kind of communication skill is much in-demand: It is a special type of talent: a mix of technical writing, film script or creative writing, transcreation, and interpreting. It’s a domain insight that gets right down to the nitty-gritty of replicating and handling how humans really speak and write: slang, errors, typos, warts and all. CUI language designers must even decide how emoji and personality can or should be localized in different versions of a chatbot.

Where’s the Conversation Headed?

The conversational UI market is growing globally as messenger apps take over. Localization and language pros cannot ignore the conversational UI space.

Karen will be speaking next at the Seattle Localization User Group (SLUG) in December (2017) about Conversational UIs in the Enterprise.Localization and language pros cannot ignore the conversational UI space. Click To Tweet

 

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Language at the ❤ of Conversational Interfaces

Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

A Chat About Language and UI

Robotspeak in San Francisco. A great store, but it’s also exactly how conversational interfaces should NOT sound: like a robot. Conversational interfaces offer a natural way to deal with a multitude of digital asks and tasks and the crafting of language is critical to that intent. (Image by Ultan Ó Broin)

Robotspeak in San Francisco. A great store, but it’s also exactly how conversational interfaces should NOT sound: like a robot. Conversational interfaces offer a natural way to deal with a multitude of digital asks and tasks and the crafting of language is critical to that intent. (Image by Ultan Ó Broin)

Chatbots and conversational interfaces are all the rage right with startups, VCs, innovators and users alike. Messenger apps have surpassed social media in terms of popularity and we’re witnessing the awesome agency of chatbots such as KLM Messenger as a natural way for users to perform a huge range of digital asks and tasks without the need for special devices or apps.

Going Global With Conversational Interfaces

But what are the localization and translation aspects to chatbots and conversational computing?

To a large extent, the natural language processing (NLP) backend capabilities of the bot or messaging platform determine much of the linguistic side of the user experience (UX). However, there are plenty of other considerations for internationalization and localization people to concern themselves with, not least educating designers and developers in globalization best practices.

Check out this super article “Do you want your chatbot converse in foreign languages? My learnings from bot devs” by Artem Nedrya for a start.

It is also very clear that there is a huge role for the conversational UI writer in the design and creation of conversational interfaces. An understanding of language, its style, tone, grammar, and so on, is central to making or breaking a conversational interface UX but also to ensuring that any content created is localizable and makes sense to a local user.

Here’s an article I wrote for Chatbots Magazine that covers the topic of language and chatbot UX that also touches the translation space. I hope you find my thoughts in “Writing Skills: At the ❤️ Of Chatbot UX Design” useful.

Conversational UI is dependent on bot and messenger platform NLP capability but human language skills are still definitely at the core of conversational UI design. (Image by Ultan Ó Broin)

Conversational UI is dependent on bot and messenger platform NLP capability. But human language skills are still definitely at the core of conversational UI design. (Image by Ultan Ó Broin)

Don’t be surprised if you see the topics of chatbots and conversational interfaces coming up on the agendas of localization conferences and in publications a lot more!

As ever, for a conversation on this blog post, find the comments box!

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.