Conversational Kiosk

Coordinators  - Maria Aretoulaki, DialogCONNECTION Ltd - Bruce Balentine, EIG AG. James Balentine, University of Texas at San Antonio - Leonardo Bottaci, University of Hull - Kevin Jones, Composer and Sound Artist - Darren P. Mundy, University of Hull - Sandra Pauletto, University of York - Chris Pidcock, Cereproc Ltd - Jez Wells, University of York

Outline – “Imagine trying to tell someone you are truly deeply sorry but your voice does not sound at all sorry.  In fact, it has an odd artificial sound.  You fear being thought insincere.  Perhaps the lack of a sorry voice has taken away not only your ability to express sorrow but even some of the sorrow; sorrow diluted with feelings of apprehension about your voice is not so true and deep. How can an artificial voice function truly as a voice?  Is it just about the sound, is it familiarity?   In reality, we don't know.”


What is a conversation? And what does it mean to “express your feelings” when you’re speaking to another? We all do it every day, and hardly give it a moment’s thought. But answers to these questions are not so obvious when one of the voices is artificial; an artificial voice sounds “funny.” Some people dismiss such a voice (“it’s a computer accent”), and don’t give it another thought. But others are troubled or repelled. It’s not enough to say that an artificial voice “has no emotion”, because  people infer emotion when they hear speech, whether it’s there or not. Instead, it appears that an artificial voice conveys the wrong emotion—or at least inappropriate emotion—leading people to complain that it is robotic and alien. We translate these words as, “I can’t tell what this entity is feeling or thinking.”

 Research - The CreST Voice Expressivity and Emotion Group (VEEG) have built an experimental chatbot which we call a conversational kiosk. It will tell you stories and ask you questions. You, in turn, can reply to the questions and initiate new questions of your own. As you converse with this chatbot, it will introduce different emotional characteristics into its own speech, changing personality on its own (sometimes at random). We are using the chatbot to discover or invent new rules for conversational emotion—rules that help with this artificial voice problem.