Michael McTear is Emeritus Professor at the University of Ulster with a special research interest in spoken language technologies. He graduated in German Language and Literature from Queens University Belfast in 1965, was awarded an MA in Linguistics at the University of Essex in 1975, and a PhD at the University of Ulster in 1981. He has been Visiting Professor at the University of Hawaii (1986-87), the University of Koblenz, Germany (1994-95), and the University of Granada, Spain (2006- 2010). He has been researching in the field of spoken dialogue systems for more than fifteen years and is the author of the widely used textbook Spoken dialogue technology: toward the conversational user interface (Springer, 2004).
He also is a co-author (with Kristiina Jokinen) of the book Spoken Dialogue Systems, (Morgan and Claypool, 2010), and (with Zoraida Callejas) of the book Voice Application Development for Android (Packt Publishing, 2013). He is co-author (with Zoraida Callejas and David Griol) of a new book entitled The Conversational Interface: Talking to Smart Devices (Springer, May 2016).
The birth of the conversational interface: a new kid on the block?
Conversational interfaces have become a hot topic. Major tech companies have been making huge investments in research into technologies such as AI, deep neural networks, machine learning, and natural language understanding with the aim of creating intelligent assistants (or bots) that will enable users to interact with information and services in a natural, conversational way. Yet the vision of the conversational interface is not new, and indeed there is a history of research in dialogue systems, chatbots, voice user interfaces, and embodied conversational agents that goes back more than fifty years.
This paper explores what has changed to make the conversational interface relevant today and examines some key issues from earlier work that could inform the next generation of conversational systems.