Professor Mike McTear

Emeritus Professor of Computer Science, Ulster University

Chatbots as a new interface to smart devices: issues and challenges

Chatbots have been hailed as the new way to interact with smart devices, providing a conversational interface where a traditional graphical user interface is more cumbersome to use or in some cases not even applicable. In addition to those chatbots that are being developed by large technology companies to support conversational commerce, tens of thousands of chatbots are being created by enthusiasts, making use of the many easy-to-use development tools that have become available. However, while it is easy to create a chatbot, it is not easy to create one that is good and useful. In this talk I will first review recent developments in chatbots and conversational interfaces, showing how lessons from past work in spoken dialogue systems, voice user interfaces, and embodied conversational agents are frequently being ignored. Following this I will look critically at issues of design and the use of technologies such as natural language processing and machine learning, and offer some recommendations for future developments.



Michael McTear is an Emeritus Professor at Ulster University with a special research interest in spoken language technologies. He is the author of several books, including Spoken Dialogue Technology: Toward The Conversational User Interface, Springer Verlag, 2004, Spoken Dialogue Systems, Morgan and Claypool, 2010, (with Kristiina Jokinen), Voice Application Development for Android, Packt Publishing, 2013 (with Zoraida Callejas), and The Conversational Interface: Talking to Smart Devices, Springer, 2016 (with Zoraida Callejas and David Griol). He was Visiting Professor at the University of Hawaii (1986-87), the University of Koblenz, Germany (1994-95), and University of Granada, Spain (2006, 2007, 2008) and was a visiting researcher for two summer internships at British Telecoms Research Laboratories. Professor McTear has delivered keynote addresses and tutorials at many conferences and workshops and has participated in 7 European funded projects and in 4 nationally funded projects. He also played a leading role in several projects with hospitals that involved designing and developing voice user interfaces to support home monitoring for patients with diabetes and to measure and analyze INR readings.