International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction

Ubiquitous access to unified messaging: A study of usability and the use of pervasive computing

View publication


The advent of mobile devices and the wireless Internet is having a profound impact on the way people communicate, as well as on the user interaction paradigms used to access information that was traditionally accessible only through visual interfaces. Applications for mobile devices entail the integration of various data sources optimized for delivery to limited hardware resources and intermittently connected devices through wireless networks. Although telephone interfaces arise as one of the most prominent pervasive applications, they present interaction challenges such as the augmentation of speech recognition through natural language (NL) understanding and high-quality text-to-speech conversion. This article presents an experience in building an automated assistant that is natural to use and could become an alternative to a human assistant. The Mobile Assistant (MA) can read e-mail messages, book appointments, take phone messages, and provide access to personal-organizer information. Key components are a conversational interface, enterprise integration, and notifications tailored to user preferences. The focus of the research has been on supporting the pressing communication needs of mobile workers and overcoming technological hurdles such as achieving high accuracy speech recognition in noisy environments, NL understanding, and optimal message presentation on a variety of devices and modalities. The article outlines findings from the 2 broad field trials and lessons learned regarding the support of mobile workers with pervasive computing devices and emerging technologies.