I consider myself to be a decisive person.
When I make a decision, I stick with it, confident that it is the right one. But lately, I’ve not been so sure.
I’ve not been so sure because I’ve been driving vehicles that make me question my judgment. And sometimes, my sanity.
Why? Because they keep asking me if I’m sure the destination I ask for is the one I really want.
“Do you want to navigate to 3000 Town Center Southfield, MI,” a vehicle’s voice assistant will ask me, after I’ve already given the full address and it finds it.
Um, maybe? I guess it knows I’d love to skip work on a sunny day and go hang out on my deck instead.
But nine times out of 10 the answer is, YES! Yes, I want you to set the destination I’ve requested and tell me how to get there, without me needing to tell you two or three different times to “Start” or “Go” or “Start guidance” or say, “Line 1.”
Several voice-controlled navigation systems tested suffer from what I like to call, “Are-you-sure-you-really-want-to-do-that-itis.”
In the case of the system in one vehicle, after you ask for an address its voice assistant asks you, “Is this correct?” Then you must hit a virtual “Go” button on the touchscreen. I thought the whole point of voice recognition was you didn’t have to look at a screen and could keep your eyes on the road?
Two others also ask you to hit a “Go” button on the screen to set a destination. However, in an improvement over what one vehicle offers, you also can hit the talk button again and say, “Set as destination.”
In the case of another system, I had to say, “Start” twice. Ugh.
The cyber-nanny sometimes rears its ugly head on the tail-end of a voice address entry too, when you go to cancel a route.
Many models make canceling that address a chore.
“Are you sure you want to cancel route guidance?” Yes! Just do it!!
So what’s going on here? My fellow 10 Best UX judge Drew Winter, who is well-versed in voice-recognition foibles, says it’s that buzzword of the moment, AI, at work. Or not.
“In order to be more conversational than conventional menu-based systems, natural-language systems need a variety of (artificial intelligence) technologies to use reasoning and lots of knowledge to fill in blanks that are inferred but not mentioned explicitly by users,” he writes, quoting an official from natural-language specialist Nuance.
“But for computers with typical menu-based programming, getting desired information can turn into ‘dart-throwing sessions’ instead of conversation as the computer struggles to determine the right answer to what it sees as a long list of possibilities.”
Experts say the solution is to use a variety of AI technologies that work together and can use reasoning to fill in the informational blanks, and create a natural-sounding dialogue with the driver.
I’m happy to note it looks as if the tide may be turning.
The BMW 540i, also a Wards 10 Best UX winner for 2017, has superb voice recognition, using Nuance’s natural-language-understanding technology. You can say an address and it maps it immediately, no frustrating confirmation steps necessary. Same with asking it to cancel a route: It just does it, no questions asked.
I can “Go” for that!