Art and Business of Speech Recognition, The

Blade Kotelly  
Total pages
January 2003
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This book examines both the rapid emergence and broad potential of speech-recognition applications. Students will gain a fundamental understanding of what goes into the design, production, testing and deployment of over-the-phone speech-recognition applications. They'll be introduced to design guidelines, tips, and techniques, which help ensure that an application works well and that people enjoy using it. The author uses case studies, allowing the students to see how other designers have dealt with real-life issues to solve real business problems.

Table of Contents



1.On Telephones, Touchtones, and Business Needs.

Speech Recognition versus Touchtone Functionality.

Problems with Touchtone, and a Speech Recognition Remedy.

What Kinds of Companies Are Using Speech Recognition?

Why Are Companies Using It?

Speech-Recognition Applications: A Typical Example.

Where We've Been-Where We're Going.

2. Technology Primer: About Speech Recognizers.

What the Recognizer Hears (and the Need for Confirmation)

When the Recognizer Listens.

Why Designing a Speech-Recognition Application Is Challenging.

Where We've Been-Where We're Going.

3. The Psychology of How People Interact with Speech-Recognition Systems.

Social-Psychological Research

Ask “Dr.” Blade.

Where We've Been-Where We're Going.


4. Research.

Clients' Objectives.

Callers' Objectives and Needs.

Aspects of Research.

Assembling a Requirements Specification.

Anticipating Change.

Where We've Been-Where We're Going.

5. Developing the Design.

Conceptualizing and Brainstorming.

Congruence of Style.

Defining the Call Flow.

Vision Clips/Sample Calls.

The Design Specification-Conveying the Details of the Design.

Constructing a Design Specification.

Following Through on the Initial Design Phase.

Where We've Been-Where We're Going.

6. Writing Effective Prompts.

The Language of Asking Questions.

The Art of Writing Perfect Prompts.

Writing Prompts for Elegance, Speed, and Value.

Getting Callers to Focus on the Essentials.

Some Subtleties of Prompt Writing.

Top Five Good Tenets for Writing Prompts.

Top Five Mistakes When Writing Prompts.

Where We've Been-Where We're Going.

7. Production and Branding.

Notes About Implementation and Programming.


Prompt Creation-Text-to-Speech and Recorded Voices.


Directing Voice Talents.

The Art of Recording Prompts.

Other Thoughts on Directing.

Concatenative Prompt Recording.

Some Metrics and Technical Notes.

Audio Icons.


Where We've Been-Where We're Going.

8. Usability Testing.

The Value of Usability Testing.

How We Test an Application.

Objectives of Usability Testing.

Preparing for the Test.

The Test Subjects.

How to Get Test Subjects.

The Test Environment.

Types of Tests.

The Test Is Over-Now What?

Interpreting Test Results.

Where We've Been-Where We're Going.

9. Deployment.

The Importance of Multi-Phase Deployment.

The Three Phases of Deployment.

Pilot Deployment.

Partial Deployment.

Full Deployment.

Where We've Been-Where We're Going.


10. Case Studies.

United Airlines: Shortcuts for Frequent Fliers.

United Airlines: Providing Extra Help for Those Who Need It.

Continental Airlines: A Different Approach to Flight Information.

A Top-Five Investment Management Company: Handling Complex Two-Choice Questions.

An Online Brokerage Firm: Managing More Complex Tasks.

An Online Brokerage Firm: Preferences and Other Rarely Used Functions.

A Regional Telephone Company: Dealing with Legal Notices and Disclaimers.

Wildfire: List Navigation.

Wildfire: Small Header, Large Body Lists.

A Top-Five U.S. Bank: Large Header, Small Body Lists.

The “Race Condition”.

FedEx: Scaffolding Prompts.

Amtrak: Implicit Confirmation and the “Ellipses/and” Question Form.

AirTran: Reducing the Information Burden.

Guessing Right.

Semantics: When “Problem” Was a Problem.

Where We've Been-Where We Must Go.

Suggested Reading List.
Index. 0321154924T01032003

Back Cover

Most people have experienced an automated speech-recognition system when calling a company. Instead of prompting callers to choose an option by entering numbers, the system asks questions and understands spoken responses. With a more advanced application, callers may feel as if they're having a conversation with another person. Not only will the system respond intelligently, its voice even has personality.

The Art and Business of Speech Recognition examines both the rapid emergence and broad potential of speech-recognition applications. By explaining the nature, design, development, and use of such applications, this book addresses two particular needs:

  1. Business managers must understand the competitive advantage that speech-recognition applications provide: a more effective way to engage, serve, and retain customers over the phone.
  2. Application designers must know how to meet their most critical business goal: a satisfying customer experience.

Author Blade Kotelly illuminates these needs from the perspective of an experienced, business-focused practitioner. Among the diverse applications he's worked on, perhaps his most influential design is the flight-information system developed for United Airlines, about which Julie Vallone wrote in Investor's Business Daily: "By the end of the conversation, you might want to take the voice to dinner."

If dinner is the analogy, this concise book is an ideal first course. Managers will learn the potential of speech-recognition applications to reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction, enhance the company brand, and even grow revenues. Designers, especially those just beginning to work in the voice domain, will learn user-interface design principles and techniques needed to develop and deploy successful applications. The examples in the book are real, the writing is accessible and lucid, and the solutions presented are attainable today.



Blade Kotelly is the Creative Director of Interface Design for SpeechWorks International, a leading provider of automated speech-recognition software products and services. In addition to United Airlines, he has worked on applications for Apple Computer, E*TRADE, McKesson, Fidelity Investments IBG, FedEx, and others. A frequent conference speaker and university lecturer, Blade has had his work and ideas featured byThe New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and National Public Radio.