Developing New Technologies For Social Interaction at NJIT

Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with Yvette Wohn, Assistant Professor of Informatics & Director of the Social Interaction Lab, New Jersey Institute of Technology, from the Amazon Alexa VOICE Summit at NJIT. Wohn explains the research she does through the Social Interaction Lab and the her vision of the future of voice technology.

9/27/18 #2169






"Doctor Yvette Wohn, Assistant Professor of Informatics and Director of the Social Interaction Lab, NJIT, New Jersey Institute of Technology. By the way, describe that title, the Social Interaction Lab is? The Social Interaction Lab is myself and a collection of students, and we do research related to human-computer interaction. Which is looking at how people interact with all sorts of different kinds of technologies that are social. So that includes social media, online games, live streaming, so a lot of fun research going on. You know what's so interesting? I was saying this to you before we got on the air... by the way, there are thousands of people here at this Voice Summit at NJIT, who have come here for a lot of different reasons, but I bet there are some folks watching right now, professor, who say, "Oh, voice technology? Less human interaction, more technological control." You say? Well, I say that of course there could be some doomsday scenario where voice completely takes over, but I don't really see it that way. I see it more of as a compliment to human interaction. And there are a lot of situations where, for example, when you're seeking information or something like that, where it would be nice to have someone always available all the time. And the thing with people is that it's very hard to do that. And so one example is... for example, let's say you're a very elderly person at home and you need to reach out to someone right away and someone is not readily available. In that case, you might want to talk to a conversational agent that may be able to assist you for something. Woah. Back up. A conversational agent? Define that. A conversational agent is basically a machine that you can have a conversation with. How does that work? Do you ask questions? Well it could happen in a lot of different ways. Sometimes you can ask questions, and it can give you answers. It really depends on the context, and so... Can the conversational agent drive the conversation as well? Or does the human being have to drive the conversation? Well... right. Meaning? You're acting like I don't have to be here. Right. That you could have a conversational agent hosting this show for public television, FiOS, and other platforms. Steve, we don't need you. We're gonna have a conversational agent sit right here and talk to the professor. Does it work that way? I mean... no. I... the technology isn't sophisticated enough to work that way yet. Currently, it's mostly about responding..."