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Hardcover | Out of Print | 319 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 1 illus. | July 2005 | ISBN: 9780262140928
Paperback | $31.00 X | £25.95 | 319 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 1 illus. | February 2007 | ISBN: 9780262640657
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Wired for Speech

How Voice Activates and Advances the Human-Computer Relationship


Interfaces that talk and listen are populating computers, cars, call centers, and even home appliances and toys, but voice interfaces invariably frustrate rather than help. In Wired for Speech, Clifford Nass and Scott Brave reveal how interactive voice technologies can readily and effectively tap into the automatic responses all speech—whether from human or machine—evokes. Wired for Speech demonstrates that people are "voice-activated": we respond to voice technologies as we respond to actual people and behave as we would in any social situation. By leveraging this powerful finding, voice interfaces can truly emerge as the next frontier for efficient, user-friendly technology.

Wired for Speech presents new theories and experiments and applies them to critical issues concerning how people interact with technology-based voices. It considers how people respond to a female voice in e-commerce (does stereotyping matter?), how a car's voice can promote safer driving (are "happy" cars better cars?), whether synthetic voices have personality and emotion (is sounding like a person always good?), whether an automated call center should apologize when it cannot understand a spoken request ("To Err is Interface; To Blame, Complex"), and much more. Nass and Brave's deep understanding of both social science and design, drawn from ten years of research at Nass's Stanford laboratory, produces results that often challenge conventional wisdom and common design practices. These insights will help designers and marketers build better interfaces, scientists construct better theories, and everyone gain better understandings of the future of the machines that speak with us.

About the Authors

Clifford Nass is Professor, Department of Communication, and Codirector, Kozmetsky Global Collaboratory, at Stanford University. He is the author of The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places.

Scott Brave is Chief Technology Officer at Baynote, Inc.


“With Wired for Speech, Clifford Nass and Scott Brave have done a brilliant job of tracing the implications of the intensely social nature of speech for the burgeoning arena of voice interface systems. Anyone interested in these systems would do well to read this book.”
Robert B. Cialdini, Arizona State University, author of Influence: Science and Practice
“I found Wired for Speech absolutely fascinating, full of amazing insights. It tells us that the more we are forced to learn how to interact with computers, the more we learn about the most human part of ourselves: that we are not only the masters but the slaves of speech.”
Robert MacNeil, coauthor of Do You Speak American?
“This is a deeply insightful and immensely useful tour of what is sure to become the most important human-machine interface. As someone who thought he knew all about speech interaction, I was nonetheless surprised again and again as I read through it. Remember 2001? Well, if Hal's fictional designers had read Wired for Speech, Hal not only would have brought his ship's crew back alive, he would have delivered a flawless Academy Award speech as well!”
Paul Saffo, Director, Institute for the Future
“Should a computer refer to itself as 'I'? Questions such as these are philosophical, with implications that range from the social to the psychodynamic. In this dense and fascinating work, they are treated empirically: in a series of systematic investigations, the voice of the machine emerges as a new evocative object for thinking about how people actively draw the line between human and artificial. A compelling contribution to our understanding of computer-human relationships—now and in the years to come.”
Sherry Turkle, author of The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit and Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet


Winner, 2007 International Communication Association Outstanding Book Award for 2005-2006., 2007