Designed in 2 Minutes?

Friday, November 26, 2004

Nokia voice dialling

When Nokia first introduced voice-activated dialling on their phones they had clearly thought long and hard about how to make the system as usable as possible. In fact they got it so near to perfect that they've left the interface pretty much unchanged since it was first introduced; the latest models still voice-dial in the same way.

The reason the design is so good is that it provides clear user feedback in all the important areas of exactly what the phone is doing, without being over-intrusive, and which can all be controlled from a handsfree headset with just one button.

Although voice dialling can be initiated by holding down (usually) the Names key of the phone, it can also be initiated by pressing the headset button. Doing this also bypasses the keypad lock if it's currently switched on, as the whole point of a hands-free kit is that you don't have to get the phone out to unlock its keypad first... From here on, the system works in the same way whether the headset is attached or not.

The phone beeps to let you know it's waiting for input (essential if the device is in your pocket as the headset has no other way of displaying anything the phone might be trying to tell you). If you just say nothing within a few seconds, it will beep again in a slightly more depressed tone to let you know it's giving up.

If you do say something after the first beep the phone will wait for approximately half a second of silence to indicate that you've finished speaking. If you speak again (or something else makes a noise) within this half second then it will keep listening...

Once the phone is sure you've finished inputting it will process the input and play back the user-inputted recording which it thinks matches closest to what you just said. This will have been prerecorded by the user and 'attached' to an entry in the phone book.

This step is one of the most important as it provides the user with the clearest possible indication of who the phone is now about to call. It uses the user's own recording (which the user must recognise - it's their own voice!) to confirm the action.

If no match was found then the phone just beeps again in its depressed way and goes back to sleep.

All of this makes for a system with a supremely good concept of cognitive processes, which tells the user unobtrusively when to input data, tells the user in the clearest possible way what the output is, and informs the user of a successful or unsuccessful input.

It's just a shame that the voice dialling feature is limited to (usually) only 10 entries from the phone book :-(


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