Memorable Voices II

Positive Siren Songs

Remember the last film you watched. Think back to how every scene was scored with a particular set of music and how that music made you feel. One thing you will realize is that your experience was heightened by the score as it allowed for a different avenue through which you accessed your movie-going experience.

Music is a key feature of sound design. It allows for a more emotive experience which in turn makes it a memorable one. When key scenes in film are heightened by the score, the moments become all the more realized within your memory. UI sound design should follow a similar experience and preliminary examples of this can be seen already, just think about the arrangement you hear when your Mac has started up.

Interactions with voice interfaces would benefit from a more complex use of music in this manner as it would allow the user to begin to be further immersed in their current interaction. Simple feedback sounds provide key checkpoints during the user's journey, but music over an extended period allows the user to be continually engaged in the experience, therefore keeping them immersed for longer.

This becomes key for certain types of interactions which require the user to be present for a prolonged period of time. An example of this would be a GPS navigation system. When the user has begun an active navigation there are brief points of silence in between each set of directions. These moments are pivotal as they are an opportunity for other stimuli to break the user's experience. This would mean that the user could be easily distracted away from the current function at hand and would begin giving their attention to other tasks, leaving the experience only to be reminded of it moments later by the next set of directions. At this second point of reentry, however, the user is less engaged and more likely to begin to make errors as the train of attention has been disrupted.

A better experience in this case would be a more passive way of reminding the user that they are still a part of an ongoing interaction with the interface. This is where music can come in. As the user awaits the next instruction they are played a musical arrangement that corresponds to the direction of their movement. The arrangement could be made unique to the application and would allow the user to continually recognize that they are on the correct path and are still following their GPS.  Conversely, if the user is going in the wrong direction there would be a vocal notification of this followed by the playing of an arrangement corresponding to this action. In this way the user continues to have an enhanced interaction with their voice interface that isn't entirely vocal and is more passive and reinforcing.Music in this way is another tool that can be added to the designers toolbox that would allow for a richer, more rewarding experience.

Imitation Is Flattery

Who you are is almost always reflected in how you sound. Your personality shines through your voice interactions and begins to form a key part of people's memory of you. This extends itself to human-machine voice interactions as well. An interaction with  machine with a personality is a more emphatic,more rewarding interaction.

As a user you have an expectation of the type of interaction you will have with a voice interface. This expectation comes with allowances for several accommodations such as a reduced sense of disappointment when the device fails to give you the most precise response. These expectations however can be exceeded and leveraged to create better and more memorable experiences through the use of personality. If the device sounded more personable in its tone you would be more likely to be forgiving of its error.

Much like any real interaction personality adds color and creates an increased engagement in the experience. If the UI you are interacting with actually learns to talk to you in a way that is pleasing to you, you are more likely to want to interact with it and begin to form memories of it. Empathic experiences that are tailored to the user will allow the user to see an increased value to being in the experience. Seams in the programming can also begin to be masked in this way as cycled answers that may be used in conversation trees will begin to appear more dynamic to the user as they are partially distracted by the amazement at developing a more human experience with the interface.

An experience like this with the interface is one you will remember and one that can be continued to be reinforced by having the UI’s personality have more of the user's input reflected in it.


Enriched voice experiences are the logical next step to trying to drive an adoption of this new form of interaction. Taking a more human approach to designing these experiences will allow for these experiences to become more engaging and inclusive. Using emotional design we can begin to create experiences that are going to be seen by the user less as simple services and more as valuable, memorable, human interactions.  

Further Reading

Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction

A Review of Personality In Voice Based Man-Machine Interactions

Measures for Success I

Memorable Voices I