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Towards a Tool for the Subjective Assessment of Speech System Interfaces (SASSI)



Applications of speech recognition are now widespread, but user-centred evaluation methods are necessary to ensure their success. Objective evaluation techniques are fairly well established, but previous subjective techniques have been unstructured and unproven. This paper reports on the first stage in the development of a questionnaire measure for the Subjective Assessment of Speech System Interfaces (SASSI). The aim of the research programme is to produce a valid, reliable and sensitive measure of users' subjective experiences with speech recognition systems. Such a technique could make an important contribution to theory and practice in the design and evaluation of speech recognition systems according to best human factors practice. A prototype questionnaire was designed, based on established measures for evaluating the usability of other kinds of user interface, and on a review of the research literature into speech system design. This consisted of 50 statements with which respond...
Towards a Tool for the Subjective Assessment of Speech System Interfaces (SASSI)
Department of Information Systems and Computing,
Brunel University,
UB8 3PH,
United Kingdom.
Personal Networks Group,
Alencon Link,
RG21 7PL,
United Kingdom.
The first author was supported in this research by EPSRC grant reference GR/L94710. The
second author carried out research while at the Husat Research Institute, Loughborough
University as part of the SPEECH IDEAS project, funded by the ESRC and DETR under the
UK government’s LINK IST programme.
Applications of speech recognition are now widespread, but user-centred evaluation methods
are necessary to ensure their success. Objective evaluation techniques are fairly well
established, but previous subjective techniques have been unstructured and unproven. This
paper reports on the first stage in the development of a questionnaire measure for the
Subjective Assessment of Speech System Interfaces (SASSI). The aim of the research
programme is to produce a valid, reliable and sensitive measure of users’ subjective
experiences with speech recognition systems. Such a technique could make an important
contribution to theory and practice in the design and evaluation of speech recognition systems
according to best human factors practice. A prototype questionnaire was designed, based on
established measures for evaluating the usability of other kinds of user interface, and on a
review of the research literature into speech system design. This consisted of 50 statements
with which respondents rated their level of agreement. The questionnaire was given to users
of four different speech applications, and Exploratory Factor Analysis of 214 completed
questionnaires was conducted. This suggested the presence of six main factors in users’
perceptions of speech systems: System Response Accuracy, Likeability, Cognitive Demand,
Annoyance, Habitability and Speed. The six factors have face validity, and a reasonable level
of statistical reliability. The findings form a useful theoretical and practical basis for the
subjective evaluation of any speech recognition interface. However, further work is
recommended, to establish the validity and sensitivity of the approach, before a final tool can
be produced which warrants general use.
1 Introduction
After many years of failing to make its predicted breakthrough, speech recognition
technology is now beginning to find its way into peoples’ everyday lives. Speech input is in
widespread use for applications such as telephone answering services (e.g. Beacham &
Barrington, 1996), PC dictation (e.g. Taylor, 1999), over-the-phone travel enquiries (e.g.
Failenschmid & Thornton, 1998), and in-car systems (e.g. Howard, 1998). However, the
increasing number and variety of inexperienced users of this technology heightens the
importance of designing interfaces according to good human factors principles, to ensure their
usability. A fundamental precept of the discipline of human factors is to involve the user in
all stages of a system’s design, from concept to product. Without a user-centred approach,
systems can all too easily be developed which are inappropriate or inefficient, or ultimately,
which lead to such low levels of user acceptance that they are rejected completely.
This paper is concerned with usability evaluation of interfaces for speech input systems. This
refers to systems which allow user input via voice using automatic speech recognition
technology and includes a wide range of different types of system, from those which accept
only a very limited set of spoken command words to those which accept a sub-set of spoken
natural language. These systems also vary in the way that they communicate to the user (e.g.
by speech output, visual output or simply carrying out a command). Speech input is taken as
the key defining feature here because the probabilistic nature of the recognition process
clearly differentiates these systems from most other modes of human-computer interaction.
In general, measures of a system’s usability can be defined as objective or subjective.
Objective measures, such as task completion time, number of errors, or physiological changes
in the user (e.g. heart rate variability) can of course be extremely useful in speech system
design and evaluation. A number of useful objective measures are discussed in Gibbon,
Moore and Winski (1998). However, these must also be supported by subjective measures to
examine user acceptance.
Popular subjective evaluation techniques include open interviews or focus groups. Such
qualitative techniques have the advantages of providing a wealth of information, and insights
into aspects of system acceptance that could not be predicted prior to data collection.
However, subjective measures need not be any less structured or quantifiable than objective
measures. Questionnaires, user-completed rating scales, structured interviews, and expert
checklists can all produce ‘hard’ data. Any measurement technique, whether objective or
subjective, should have the fundamental characteristics of (Sanders & McCormick, 1993):
• reliability (the results should be stable across repeated administrations)
• validity (the technique should measure what it is really intended to measure)
• sensitivity (the technique should be capable of measuring even small variations in what it is
intended to measure)
• freedom from contamination (the measure should not be influenced by variables that are
extraneous to the construct being measured)
1.1 Generic subjective usability evaluation methods
Before discussing subjective measures that are specific to speech systems, it is helpful to
consider more general subjective usability evaluation methods. Two of the most well known
questionnaire measures are Shneiderman’s Questionnaire for User Interaction Satisfaction
(‘QUIS’ Shneiderman, 1998) and the Software Usability Measurement Inventory (‘SUMI
Kirakowski, 1996) developed by the Human Factors Research Group at University College
Cork. These measures also illustrate two important approaches to questionnaire design.
Shneiderman's QUIS measure was based on his theoretical model of what makes software
usable. It consists of one scale to measure overall reactions to the software and then four
scales designed to evaluate user reactions to the display, terminology and system information,
learning and system capabilities. Sections have recently been added to the questionnaire on
multimedia (though not including speech input) and teleconferencing (Shneiderman, 1998).
In contrast to QUIS, SUMI was developed without an a priori expectation of what factors
make up usability. Instead the developers produced a large bank of questions, such as ‘this
software responds too slowly to inputs’, and gave these to a sample of computer users. Factor
analysis was then used to determine the main components of user attitude, and measurement
scales for each of these components were further developed in an iterative process. This is an
established method for the development of psychometric instruments and has the advantage
of reflecting user experience with the software, rather than simply developer expectations.
The main sub-scales of SUMI are Affect (or Likeability), Efficiency, Helpfulness, Control
and Learnability. Studies have been carried out to support both the validity and reliability of
SUMI (Kirakowski, 1996). The developers are currently working towards similarly
structured questionnaire tools to assess the usability of web sites (‘WAMMI’) and multimedia
software (‘MUMMS’).
Although these and similar techniques have been found to be useful in evaluating a variety of
applications (Kirakowski, 1996; Shneiderman, 1998), they are not claimed to be applicable to
speech recognition interfaces. Speech systems have a number of unique features that are not
addressed within general software usability scales such as SUMI or QUIS. Most importantly,
all speech recognisers make errors, and consequently need to give the user feedback as to
what has been recognised. The question of how accurate a recogniser must be, while still
remaining useful and acceptable, is one that is crucial to industry’s development of speech
applications. Speech interfaces are also unusual in that users tend to have strong pre-
conceived ideas (from human-human conversation) about how an interaction should proceed.
Therefore, questions of naturalness, intuitiveness or ‘habitability’ are important, and are not
covered in sufficient depth in general scales.
1.2 Subjective usability evaluation methods specific to speech systems
Because of the lack of validated methods for the subjective evaluation of speech systems,
previous research studies have tended to use piecemeal techniques. Two of the less structured
methods are the use of open interviews or overall rating scales. For example, Nelson (1986)
asked users what they thought of a novel voice recognition system in a product inspection
environment, and noted comments such as ‘at first it was kind of strange and almost like you
were sitting there talking to yourself, but once we got used to it and I started working with it
full time, it was a lot faster’. Brems, Rabin & Waggett (1995) studied prompt design for an
automated operator service, and experimental participants were asked to rate system options
as poor, fair, good or excellent. The authors reported that approximately sixty per cent of
users rated a question-plus-options system as excellent, whereas only thirty per cent rated an
options-only condition as excellent. This level of data is extremely limited, and does not
really allow the designer to improve the system (what exactly is it about the user interface
that makes it seem good or bad?).
A more structured method is the use of adjective pairs within rating scales, as tested by
Dintruff, Grice & Wang (1985) and Casali, Williges & Dryden (1990). Dintruff et al. (1985)
examined acceptance of speech systems via 20 adjective pairs, each rated on a ten-point scale
with labelled end-points. The twenty pairs consisted of ten ‘feeling items’ and ten ‘attitude
items’, as shown in Table 1.
The same twenty adjective pairs were used to rate the voice input and voice output aspects,
separately, of an office speech system supporting functions such as diary keeping and call
management. Overall feeling measures were calculated as the mean of the ten individual
feeling scores, and similarly overall attitude measures as the mean of the ten attitude scores.
The authors used the technique to compare ratings before and after using the system, finding
that respondents developed more favourable attitudes to the technology after having used it.
Casali, Williges & Dryden (1990) used thirteen bipolar adjective rating scales of seven
intervals each. These consisted of an overall acceptability scale (Acceptable / Unacceptable)
and twelve others, as shown in Table 2.
The ratings were coded into a numerical range between one and seven, and the twelve scores
were summed to give a single measure of acceptability, referred to as the Acceptability Index
(AI). Casali et al. found that the scores on each of the twelve scales were highly correlated
with the Acceptable/ Unacceptable scale. The AI score was then used by the authors to show
that recognition accuracy was a more important predictor of acceptability than available
vocabulary for a data entry speech system. They also noted that older subjects consistently
rated speech recognition systems more favourably than younger subjects. The same scale
was used by Dillon, Norcio & DeHaemer (1993) who found an effect of subject experience
on the AI score, but no effect of vocabulary size.
Zajicek (1990) used a questionnaire format, deriving her questions from CUSI (The
Computer User Satisfaction Inventory, an early version of SUMI) and a scale developed by
Poulson (1987) to rate the perceived quality of software interfaces. Items were taken from
these questionnaires ‘where it was felt appropriate’, leading to a thirty-item questionnaire,
with ten general items concerning the speech interface, and nine concerning the specific
prototype interface. Each question was worded as a statement, to which users responded on a
scale from -3 (disagree strongly) to +3 (agree strongly). Examples of the general statements
included ‘The equipment is confusing to use’, ‘I have to concentrate hard to use the
equipment’ and ‘A speech interface is easier than a keyboard’. The results were not subjected
to any statistical analysis; rather, Zajicek based her conclusions on a comparison of the
absolute scores between 3 user groups. Interestingly, Zajicek also carried out interviews with
subjects investigating what factors they considered to be important in a speech system. She
concluded that four evaluation areas - controllability, user satisfaction, learnability and
technical performance (in order of priority) - should be used to provide a framework for
future evaluations.
Kamm, Litman & Walker (1998) tested a user satisfaction survey, with the ten questions
shown in Table 3.
There were five possible responses to most of the questions (labelled ‘almost never / ‘rarely’
/ ‘sometimes’ / ‘often’ / ‘almost always’ or an equivalent range), but some questions just had
three responses (‘yes’ / ‘no’ / ‘maybe’). The responses were mapped to integer values
between one and five. A Cumulative Satisfaction score was calculated by summing the
scores for each question. Kamm et al. found that three variables, perceived task completion,
mean recognition score, and number of help requests, were significant predictors of this
cumulative satisfaction score.
Finally, researchers at the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with British Telecom,
have also used questionnaires to evaluate over-the-phone services incorporating speech input.
A number of versions of the questionnaire have been reported, all originally based on
Poulson’s (1987) indices. For example, Love (1997) lists thirty-two attitude statements such
as ‘I found the (system) easy to use’, ‘I had to concentrate hard when using the (system)’, and
‘I thought the (system) was reliable’. Many of the same questions appear in a shorter twenty-
two item questionnaire reported in Dutton, Foster & Jack (1999). Each of these
questionnaires use five- or seven-point scales (labelled ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’
with a point marked ‘neutral’). The general approach of this research group is to calculate an
average score based on the responses of all the attitude questions. When comparing more
than one system they also look for differences in the mean ratings given on individual
questions (e.g. McInnes, Nairn, Attwater, & Jack, 1999). Support for the validity of the
overall measure is not strong, with Foster et al. (1998) reporting important discrepancies
between user attitude to three versions of a system as measured by a total score on the
questionnaire and an objective measure of user preference. The sensitivity of the measure
also seems to be low, with McInnes et al. (1999) failing to find any difference in overall
ratings given to perfect, intermediate and low accuracy versions of the same interface (and
this result was obtained, despite using a large sample size in the experiment).
With some minor exceptions, all of the previously used techniques for subjective speech
interface evaluation, outlined above, suffer from the same weaknesses.
First, their content and structure are, for the most part, arbitrary. The items chosen for a
questionnaire or rating scales are based neither on theory nor on well conducted empirical
research; rather, they are picked by the researchers according to ‘what seems right at the
time’. Similarly, the reasons for choosing a particular structure (e.g. questions, statements or
numerical scales) and sub-structure (presentation, number of points on a scale, etc.) are not
Second, the techniques have not been satisfactorily validated, either against other subjective
measures or against objective measures. There is often no reason to assume that user
responses are really measuring the construct of acceptability, rather than some other factor.
Also, it is unlikely, given the arbitrary way items have been chosen, that they sample all the
facets of acceptability rather than just a limited subset.
Third, there are no reports of the reliability of the techniques used. There are two main types
of reliability. The first is test-retest reliability, referring to the stability of the measure over
time and found by calculating the correlation between sets of scores measured for the same
system on two occasions. The second type of reliability refers to the internal consistency of a
measure and is calculated using Cronbachs alpha. The test is applied to the scales that
together are thought to measure a particular theoretical construct, such as user satisfaction.
Fourth, the way that the collected data is used is inappropriate. In many of the above
examples, scores on individual questionnaire items are simply summed or averaged to give an
overall acceptability score. Such an approach can only be justified on the basis of evidence
that all of the items are measuring the same construct, otherwise the overall score will be
meaningless. The individual items may represent different constructs; one cannot simply add
chalk to cheese. The alternative approach of comparing systems on the basis of scores on
individual questionnaire items is also problematic because people are likely to vary in the
way that they interpret the item wording. Well designed measures of attitude should always
include a number of items, all mapping onto the same construct, in order to overcome
variability in the measure due to extraneous features of this kind.
It can be concluded that none of the existing techniques for subjective speech interface
evaluation meet the criteria for a valid psychometric instrument. Claims made on the basis of
these existing measures (for instance, that a design parameter does or does not affect user
attitude) should therefore be treated with a great deal of caution.
1.3 The SASSI approach
Given the shortcomings of existing measures for the subjective evaluation of speech
interfaces there is clearly a need for the development of a more valid and reliable approach.
Such a technique would have significant benefits for both theory and practice in the
development of speech systems. A major benefit is that it would allow meaningful
comparisons be made between alternative interfaces. In addition it could be used in
benchmarking for new product development.
The current paper describes the first step towards the development of such a tool for the
Subjective Assessment of Speech System Interfaces (SASSI). The ultimate aim of the
research is to produce a subjective tool that is:
• valid, reliable and sensitive
• widely applicable to all types of speech recognition interface, from command and control to
data entry and interactive database enquiry applications
• quickly and easily completed by naïve and/or first-time respondents
• quantifiable, to allow statistical comparison of multiple interface options or benchmarking
of a single option
• discriminative, to allow identification of the good and bad aspects of a design, and
inherently suggest possible remedies
• complete, capturing all the important aspects of a user's experience with a speech
recognition system.
In order to meet the requirement for a quick and quantifiable method it was decided that the
measure should be in the form of a questionnaire to be completed by users of the system. In
the absence of firm theoretical guidance on the features of speech systems that contribute to
user satisfaction, it was decided to use an empirical approach to develop the questionnaire.
As in the development of SUMI discussed above (Kirakowski, 1996) this involves generating
a large pool of initial questionnaire items and using empirical methods to determine latent
structure from the pattern of users’ responses to these questions. The development of a useful
measurement tool using this approach involves a process of iterative refinement. This paper
describes the first in a series of planned iterations of the design of SASSI. During this stage
the emphasis is upon establishing the main components that make up a user’s perception of a
speech input system and producing reliable scales to measure each of these. This work plays
a vital role in laying a solid foundation for future research to address important theoretical
questions such as which system characteristics affect user responses and which user responses
predict eventual system acceptance. These future research issues are discussed further at the
end of the paper.
2 Method
2.1 Questionnaire Item Generation
A decision was taken to use Likert scales; declarative statements of opinion (e.g. ‘this system
is easy to use’) with which respondents rate their agreement, typically with five- or seven-
point scales. This method was chosen over the alternative of bipolar adjectives, for two main
reasons. The first is that it can sometimes be difficult to determine appropriate opposites for
each end of a bipolar scale (for example, in Casali et al.’s questionnaire - see Table 2 - is
‘facilitating’ really the opposite of ‘distracting’?). The other reason is that a finer grain of
meaning is possible in the items. For instance it is not clear that potentially useful questions,
such as ‘a high level of concentration is required when using this system’, could be converted
into simple adjectival descriptors without losing much of their meaning.
An initial pool of attitude statements was generated, based on the general usability
questionnaires reviewed in section 1.1 above, and the specific speech measures outlined in
section 1.2. A general review of the speech system usability literature (e.g. Baber & Noyes,
1993) suggested a number of additional items which were not specifically addressed in the
previous methods. Finally, extra items were added according to the authors’ practical
experiences of designing and evaluating speech system interfaces. Using this approach we
hoped to sample all relevant facets of user opinion and thus ensure the content validity of the
Care was taken to balance the number of positive and negative statements, and duplicated
items were removed from the overall pool of statements. A third expert in speech interface
usability checked the statements for clarity of meaning, and obviously confusing items were
removed. Some potentially problematic items (e.g. ‘the interaction with the system is
distracting’) were retained because they had formed part of previous speech usability
This process of item generation produced a pool of 52 statements. These were ordered in the
questionnaire so that positive and negative items were randomly distributed (to prevent
respondents being tempted to simply mark straight down a column of responses). Seven-
point Likert scales were used, labelled strongly agree, agree, slightly agree, neutral, slightly
disagree, disagree, and strongly disagree.
An initial pilot test of the questionnaire revealed that two questionnaire items (both referring
to obtaining ‘services’ from the system) could not be generalised to all speech input systems
(e.g. command-and-control applications). These items were dropped, resulting in a fifty-item
2.2 Sample and Procedure
226 completed questionnaires were returned over the course of four separate studies
involving a total of eight different speech input systems. The choice of applications used was
largely pragmatic but was intended to capture a range of different speech input system types.
Systems can be categorised in several different ways, for example by the degree of lexical,
syntactic and semantic constraint on user utterances, by degree of user / system initiative, by
the mode of system output. While we were not able to capture all combinations of these
system variables, some of the main contrasts were included as illustrated by the descriptions
Study one (Graham, Carter, & Mellor, 1998) involved a small vocabulary system (<20 words)
with a strict syntax where the interaction was initiated by the user. Here two versions of a
speech interface for dialling telephone numbers were tested. In both versions dialling was
accomplished by operating a press-to-talk button, then speaking a command word (‘phone’),
the digits in chunks of any size (e.g. ‘01509’-’611’-’0’-’88’), and another command word
(‘dial’). One version used audio-plus-visual feedback of the recognition results, and the other
audio-only feedback. Forty-eight completed questionnaires were collected for each version.
Study two involved a mixed initiative, medium sized vocabulary system (~100 words) with a
syntax which allowed some variation in command structure. Twenty-two participants used an
in-car speech interface to operate a variety of features including the car-phone, entertainment
system, and climate control. The interactions were a mixture of basic commands (e.g.
‘climate control temperature twenty degrees’) and two-way dialogues (e.g. ‘phone store
01509-611088’ - <‘name please’> - ‘Bob’). Each participant completed the SASSI
questionnaire, having experienced the system for the first time over a two-hour session.
Study three used a study with similar parameters to that in study two. Two versions of a voice
operated stereo system (encompassing radio, tape and CD functions) were tested. Valid
commands included ‘tape reverse’, ‘CD play disc 3 track 5’ and ‘radio tune 97.9 FM’. In one
version, explicit audio-plus-visual feedback of the recognition results was given, and in the
second, only implicit or ‘primary’ feedback (i.e. the operation of the tape, radio or CD itself)
was present. Thirty-two completed questionnaires were collected for the implicit-feedback
interface and thirty-one for the explicit-feedback version.
Study four (Hone & Golightly, 1998) involved three versions of an over-the-phone banking
application for checking balance, transferring funds, etc. All three were interactive dialogues
(with speech input and output) initially initiated by the system. They were explicitly
designed to differ in the degree of constraint the system prompts implied over user utterances.
At one extreme was a ‘yes/no’ dialogue style where users were asked a series of questions
such as “do you want to hear your balance” and were expected to respond with a yes or no
answer. At the other extreme was an open query style of dialogue where users were asked
open-ended questions such as “which service do you require” and were expected to reply with
a limited subset of natural language. Between these extremes was a menu style dialogue
where users were given a choice of responses to choose after each prompt (e.g. “which
service do you require, balance, cash transfer or other?”). Fifteen completed questionnaires
were collected for each version.
All participants in the trials were recruited from the general UK population through
advertising. None were experienced users of speech input systems and a range of experience
with computers was represented (from complete novice to expert). They were paid between
UK£15-30 for participating in the studies.
3 Analysis and Results
3.1 Data Screening
Prior to analysis the data was examined for accuracy of data entry, missing values, and fit
between the distributions of the variables and the assumptions of multivariate analysis. This
stage in the analysis is very important as problems here can have a large impact on the factor
solution obtained.
Six variables were identified which had missing data for greater than five per cent of the
‘cases’ (or respondents). The six questions all referred to the system ‘messages’ or system
‘voice’, and the missing data was due to the inclusion of a sample of respondents who had
used a speech system without explicit feedback. It was decided to remove these variables
from the analysis in order for the questionnaire to be applicable to all speech-input systems.
One case was identified with missing data on twenty-seven per cent of the items, and was
removed. A further forty-one missing data points were identified. As these were scattered
through the data set, with no apparent pattern, it was decided to replace these with mean
values (calculated from the remaining cases with that specific system).
Univariate and multivariate outliers in the data were identified and dealt with as
recommended by Tabachnick and Fidell (1996). Eleven cases (respondents) were removed
from the analysis at this stage. Skew, Kurtosis and linearity was also assessed and found to
be satisfactory.
Following initial data screening, 214 cases remained in the sample and forty-four variables
were retained for analysis.
The correlation matrix was examined to check that the requirements for factor analysis were
met. Several correlations of .30 or over were observed suggesting the data was suitable.
Furthermore the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) test of sampling adequacy gave a result of .95,
indicating that the associations between the variables in the correlation matrix can be
accounted for by a smaller set of factors (Dziuban & Shirkey, 1974). Bartletts test of
Sphericity (BS) was also significant at p < 0.001, indicating that there are discoverable
relationships in the data.
3.2 Exploratory Factor Analysis
An initial principal components extraction with Varimax rotation was performed using the
‘SPSS FACTOR’ software tool on the forty-four questionnaire item scores for the sample of
214 cases. The analysis yielded eight factors with Eigenvalues greater than one.
Examination of the factor pattern matrix revealed several variables which did not load on any
factor (with a criterion of 0.4 to accept a variable as defining a factor , Ferguson & Cox,
1993). In addition, a number of variables were cross-loaded (loading at 0.4 on two or more
factors). Following the advice of Ferguson and Cox (1993), non-loading and cross-loading
variables (where the difference in magnitude between loadings is less than 0.2) were
removed. These items were: (non-loading items) ‘the interaction with the system is logical’,
‘the interaction with the system is natural’, ‘the interaction with the system is distracting’;
and (cross-loading items),’too many steps are required to complete a task with the system’,
‘the interaction with the system is complicated’, ‘I sometimes felt angry using the system’, ‘I
felt inhibited speaking to the system’, ‘I was able to be spontaneous using the system’, ‘I
would prefer to speak to a human operator’. Another iteration of this process led to the
removal of a further variable from the analysis: ‘I felt comfortable using the system’.
Inspection of these removed items shows many of them to be potentially ambiguous, or likely
to be affected by social desirability, providing further justification for their removal
(Ferguson & Cox, 1993).
Principal components extraction with Varimax rotation on the remaining thirty-four variables
produced six factors with Eigenvalues greater than one. The six factor solution was further
supported by examination of the Scree Plot and of the residual correlation matrix for three-,
four- and five-factor solutions. Communality values were all acceptable (greater than or
equal to 0.4) indicating that the variables were well defined by the six factors extracted.
While statistical properties, such as these, must be considered when evaluating a factor
solution, it is also important to consider the criterion of interpretability. This relies upon the
judgement of the analyst. In this case the three-, four- and five-factor solutions were
inspected by both authors and none were found to be as readily interpretable as the six factor
Table 4 presents the results of the factor analysis. The six factors are listed in order of
importance (determined by Eigenvalue magnitude and proportion of variance explained).
Only factor loadings greater than 0.45 are shown, in order to increase clarity. Overall, the
factor solution accounts for 64.7 per cent of the total variance.
3.3 Factor Naming
A factor name should capture the underlying dimension which unifies the group of variables
loading on that factor (Tabachnick & Fidell, 1996). Both authors independently inspected the
items loading on to each factor, with the aim of reducing some of the subjectivity associated
with factor naming. The most strongly loading items were deemed most important when
interpreting each factor. Where initial namings did not agree, a process of brainstorming was
carried out until agreement was reached.
Factor 1 contains items such as ‘the system is accurate’ and ‘the system didn't always do what
I wanted’. The items all clearly relate to whether the system recognises users input correctly
and hence does what the user intended and expects. We have named this factor ‘System
Response Accuracy’.
Factor 2 contains items such as ‘I enjoyed using the system’, ‘The system is friendly’ and ‘I
would use this system’. These items are reminiscent of the SUMI dimension of Affect /
Likeability. We have chosen the term ‘Likeability’ because the factor includes statements of
opinion about the system as well as feeling (affect) items.
Factor 3 contains items such as ‘I felt tense using the system’ and ‘A high level of
concentration is required when using the system’. The items seem to summarise both the
perceived level of effort needed to use the system and user feelings arising from this effort.
We considered a number of names for this factor including stress and mental workload, but
agreed on the term ‘Cognitive Demand’.
Factor 4 contains items such as ‘The interaction with the system is
repetitive/boring/irritating’. We have named it ‘Annoyance’.
Factor 5 contains items relating to whether the user knows what to say and knows what the
system is doing. This could be seen to relate to the concept of ‘visibility’; that is, whether the
conceptual model of the system, the alternative actions and the results of these actions are
visible in the interface (Norman, 1988). However, as the term visibility is clearly unsuitable
for those systems without visible output we have chosen the term ‘Habitability’ instead. A
habitable system may be defined as one in which there is a good match between the user’s
conceptual model of the system and the actual system.
Factor 6 contains only two items, both relating to the speed of the system. We have therefore
named this factor ‘Speed’. Note that one should normally be suspicious of any factor defined
by only two items. However, the high loadings (> 0.7) of both variables onto this factor
suggest that this factor is viable.
3.4 Sub-scale Reliabilities
The internal consistency reliability of the items loading on each of the six factors defined
above was tested using Cronbach's alpha. The internal consistency estimates of the factors
were: (1) System Response Accuracy, alpha = 0.90; (2) Likeability, alpha = 0.91; (3)
Cognitive Demand, alpha = 0.88; (4) Annoyance, alpha = 0.77; (5) Habitability, alpha = 0.75;
(6) Speed, alpha = 0.69. Igbaria and Parasuraman (1991) suggest that alpha values greater
than 0.70 are adequate in the early stages of research on hypothesised measures of a
construct; all the sub-scales (except Speed, defined by only two variables) meet this criterion.
Reliabilities of 0.80 or more are generally required for widely used scales (Igbaria &
Parasuraman, 1991) and the System Response Accuracy, Likeability and Cognitive Demand
sub-scales all meet this criterion.
4 Discussion
The current paper has reported on the first in a number of planned iterations in the
development of SASSI. Exploratory factor analysis on the initial bank of questionnaire items
has suggested six main factors which contribute to the user’s experience of speech input
systems. We have tentatively named these System Response Accuracy, Likeability,
Cognitive Demand, Annoyance, Habitability and Speed. ‘System Response Accuracy’ refers
to the user’s perceptions of the system as accurate and therefore doing what they expect. This
will relate to the system’s ability to correctly recognise the speech input, correctly interpret
the meaning of the utterance and then act appropriately. This factor accounts for the greatest
proportion of the variance in the solution obtained, suggesting that it is a particularly
important or salient aspect of a user’s interaction with a speech recognition system. The
importance of this factor confirms our expectation that generic subjective measures (such as
SUMI or QUIS) are unsuitable for the evaluation of speech recognition systems.
‘Likeability’ refers to the user’s ratings of the system as useful, pleasant and friendly. It is
similar to the SUMI construct of Affect / Likeability, suggesting that this factor generalises
across speech and non-speech input software. ‘Cognitive Demand’ refers to the perceived
amount of effort needed to interact with the system and the feelings resulting from this effort.
‘Annoyance’ refers to the extent to which users rate the system as repetitive, boring, irritating
and frustrating. The emergence of this as a separate factor from Likeability is interesting and,
if confirmed in future work, may also suggest a difference between speech and non-speech
input systems. ‘Habitability’ refers to the extent to which the user knows what to do and
knows what the system is doing. It can be understood in terms of the adequacy of the user’s
conceptual model of the speech system as a dialogue partner (Baber, 1993). It is likely that
the more complex the system, the more important this factor may become as users struggle to
understand the limits of the system (lexical, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic). Finally,
‘Speed’ refers to how quickly the system responds to user inputs.
The emergence of an underlying structure in the questionnaire response set confirms our
expectation that user attitude to speech recognition systems is not a unidimensional construct.
This finding further calls into question the usefulness of measures produced by summing or
averaging user responses to ad hoc questionnaires. However, further research is needed to
confirm the specific factor structure presented in this paper. In particular it must be
recognised that the questionnaire to date has only been used with a limited range of speech
recognition systems. Future research will need to be extended to include many more
applications, particularly more examples of complex spoken language dialogue systems.
The current paper has also explored the reliability of the sub-scales loading onto each of the
six factors identified. Three of these, System Response Accuracy, Likeability and Cognitive
Demand, have reliabilities of more than 0.80, the level required for a scale to be considered
acceptable (Igbaria & Parasuraman, 1991). However, these levels of reliability need to be
confirmed with a statistically independent sample. Two of the scales, Annoyance and
Habitability, have reliabilities of more than 0.70, which is considered adequate in the early
stages of research (Igbaria & Parasuraman, 1991). Both of these have relatively few items
loading onto the factor concerned. Therefore, in future iterations of the questionnaire, it is
intended that extra items will be designed with the aim of contributing further to the reliable
measurement of those factors. The same is true for the Speed sub-scale, which currently
includes only two items and has the lowest reliability of all the sub-scales (alpha value of
To date the development of SASSI has concentrated on establishing it as a reliable measure.
This work is vital in providing a solid underpinning for future theoretical research. This
future work will assess the validity of the measure and, related to this, what the measure
really means for designers. From a methodological point of view it is important that the
validity of a measure is established. Face validity refers to whether the measure ‘looks like’
it is measuring what it should. This criterion can be important in getting a measure accepted
by other researchers in the field, but generally isn’t considered important by measurement
experts (Lehman, 1991). We would argue that SASSI has an acceptable level of face validity.
It appears to be measuring aspects of interacting with speech input systems which we and
others have hypothesised as being important. Construct and predictive validity are more
important features of a measurement tool. Construct validity can be established by
investigating the degree to which a measure correlates with other measures thought to be
measuring similar constructs. In the case of SASSI, construct validity will be investigated
through correlation of the sub-scales with established usability scales such as SUMI and
QUIS. Predictive validity is central to the eventual success of SASSI. This refers to the
degree to which the measure is predictive of external criteria. In this case these criteria might
be whether users accept a system or choose the speech system over alternatives. It can be
hypothesised that the different SASSI sub-scales will vary in the degree to which they
correlate with user preferences or behaviour. If this is the case, regression techniques can be
used to determine an aggregate score, based on the individual SASSI measures, giving
appropriate weight to each sub-scale. If a score derived from the SASSI sub-scales in this
way can be shown to be a significant predictor of behavioural metrics, then it will have
important implications. First, it can be used to operationalise the dependent variable in
experimental investigations of which features of speech input systems affect user satisfaction.
Second, it can be used to evaluate prototype systems during the development process,
hopefully resulting in improvements in design.
It was stated in the introduction that SASSI should be both widely applicable (relevant to all
speech recognition applications) and complete (capturing all relevant aspects of a user’s
subjective experience with the system). During the course of the current research, a conflict
arose between these two aims. In attempting to produce a complete measure, a number of
items were included which referred to the system ‘messages’ or system ‘voice’. During the
use of the questionnaire it became clear that these items were not applicable to the users of
one of the speech systems tested, which did not provide any explicit feedback of the
recognition results. In order to preserve the broad applicability of the questionnaire, these
items were therefore removed from the analysis. However, it might be argued that their
exclusion calls into question SASSI’s claim for completeness (or ‘content validity’). It is
therefore proposed that further development of the questionnaire addresses the question of
system feedback in more detail. There are two possible approaches that can be followed.
The first is to generate questionnaire items that can be meaningfully interpreted by users of
systems with either implicit or explicit feedback (and regardless of output modality). This
method is preferable from the point of view of producing a generally applicable measure, but
may prove impractical due to the difficulty of phrasing appropriate attitude statements. The
second alternative is to develop questions that apply to any system using explicit feedback.
These could form a separate section of the questionnaire that is only completed if explicit
feedback is used. Of course the reliability and validity of either approach would need to be
carefully assessed.
A further aim in the future development of SASSI is to produce a more useful and more user-
friendly version of the questionnaire. While the improvements to SASSI proposed above
would result in a measure which could be used for comparing systems, it would be helpful to
provide system developers with a measure to evaluate systems in isolation. In order to do
this, a large bank of normative data must be collected from a wide variety of applications and
with a wide variety of users (in terms of age, gender, experience, etc.). This can then lead to
the development of a scoring system, to judge the relative quality of an interface against the
norm. Population norms can also improve the interpretation of results from the tool. For
example, if it was found that older people tended to respond more positively using SASSI
than younger people (cf. Casali et al., 1990), then this should be taken into account each time
a group of older users are tested. Improved user friendliness can be accomplished by
reducing the length of the questionnaire (i.e. reducing the number of items), and providing
background instructions which are helpful and easily understood.
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Table 1: Adjective pairs used by Dintruff et al. (1985)
Uncomfortable / Comfortable Unfavourable / Favourable
Passive / Active Hard to use / Easy to use
Tense / Relaxed Unreliable / Reliable
Angry / Friendly Slow / Fast
Sad / Happy Useless / Useful
Depersonalized / Individualized Rigid / Flexible
Bored / Interested Inefficient / Efficient
Weak / Strong Worthless / Valuable
Inhibited / Spontaneous Inaccurate / Accurate
Dissatisfied / Satisfied Inappropriate / Appropriate
Table 2: Adjective pairs used by Casali et al. (1990)
Fast / Slow
Accurate / Inaccurate
Consistent / Inconsistent
Pleasing / Irritating
Dependable / Undependable
Natural / Unnatural
Complete / Incomplete
Comfortable / Uncomfortable
Friendly / Unfriendly
Facilitating / Distracting
Simple / Complicated
Useful / Useless
Table 3: Questions used by Kamm et al. (1998) (slightly paraphrased in order to be
Did you complete the task?
Was the system easy to understand?
Did the system understand what you said?
Was it easy to find the message you wanted?
Was the pace of interaction with the system appropriate?
Did you know what you could say at each point of the dialogue?
How often was the system sluggish and slow to reply to you?
Did the system work the way you expected it to?
How did the system’s voice interface compare to a manual interface?
Do you think you would use the system regularly?
Table 4: Exploratory Factor Analysis Results
1 2 3 4 5 6
The system is accurate
The system is unreliable
The interaction with the system is unpredictable
The system didn’t always do what I wanted
The system didn’t always do what I expected
The system is dependable
The system makes few errors
The interaction with the system is consistent
The interaction with the system is efficient
The system is useful
The system is pleasant
The system is friendly
I was able to recover easily from errors
I enjoyed using the system
It is clear how to speak to the system
It is easy to learn to use the system
I would use this system
I felt in control of the interaction with the system
I felt confident using the system
I felt tense using the system
I felt calm using the system
A high level of concentration is required when
using the system
The system is easy to use
The interaction with the system is repetitive
The interaction with the system is boring
The interaction with the system is irritating
The interaction with the system is frustrating
The system is too inflexible
I sometimes wondered if I was using the right
I always knew what to say to the system
I was not always sure what the system was doing
It is easy to lose track of where you are in an
interaction with the system
The interaction with the system is fast
The system responds too slowly
Percentage of Variance (rotated solution)
16.46 13.95 11.62 8.78 7.53 6.34
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The field of Human-Food Interaction focuses on creating and evaluating HCI interactions around food. Increasingly, the use of smartphones is part of people’s eating experience which leads to distractions and unawareness on the amount and quality of food that is eaten. In contrast, mindful eating promotes people to focus completely on their food, reducing distractions. We present an experiment in which we evaluate a smart environment for mindful eating/drinking aimed at enhancing the hedonic experience. A conversational agent acts as a hub for the smart environment and guides the user in the preparation and appreciation of tea and its pairing with a snack. We compared how independent participants assessed the system under two conditions: mindful (n = 10) and music (n = 12). Participants who interacted with the mindful conversational agent rated the system more likable in comparison with the agent that played music. Similarly, those in the mindful condition reported increased appreciation of the colors and smells of their tea. Additionally, our results show that all participants (n = 22) perceived the system as accurate, likable, quick to react, and promotes awareness. Conversely, participants rated the system low in annoyance, cognitive demand, and distraction.KeywordsHuman-food-interactionSmart environmentConversational agentEating experienceMindful eating
The purpose of the present study was to determine the effects of recognizer accuracy and vocabulary size on system performance of a speech recognition system. Subjects, ranging in age from 20 to 55 years, performed a data entry task using a simulated speech recognizer which simulated three accuracy levels and three levels of available vocabulary. Task completion times and subjective measures of acceptability were recorded. Results indicated that the accuracy level at which the recognizer was performing significantly influenced the task completion time and the user's acceptability ratings. Vocabulary size also significantly affected task completion time, however, its affect on the acceptability ratings was negligible. Older subjects in general required longer times to complete the tasks, however, they consistently rated the speech input systems more favorably than the younger subjects.
Results are presented from an experiment to measure objective and subjective user responses towards three implementations of an automated voice response telephone service, two embodying rich implementations of metaphors in the service messages including appropriate sound effects to enhance realism, a third using a non-metaphorical presentation of standard menu prompts. It was found that task completion rates, navigation of the service and attitudes were all improved with the use of metaphors.
Two experiments were performed to measure the effects of differing styles of prompt wording in a simulated telephone banking service incorporating a speech recogniser with word-spotting capabilities. It was found that users gave longer input utterances in response to an 'open' style of prompt ('How can I help you?') than in response to a 'closed' prompt which was more specific as to what input was expected, and that when a help facility was offered most users said 'help' straight away. However, no significant difference was found in attitudes to the different versions of the service. Also no attitude difference was found with varying recognition accuracy. This may have been partly due to inadequate vocabulary coverage obscuring the effect of accuracy within the vocabulary, but the results suggest also that small numbers of recognition errors may have little impact on user attitude provided that the intended result of the call is achieved — this is a topic where further research could be valuable.
Four experiments were performed to examine how natural language conventions might be used to improve the user interface for systems using automatic speech recognition (ASR). Two new technological developments offered us this opportunity: word spotting permits recognition of key words embedded in extraneous speech; barge in permits the user to speak to the system while it plays instructional prompts. Our goal was to take advantage of natural language conventions to design an optimal prompting arrangement that would accommodate both novice and expert users. The conversational conventions we focused on included people's readiness to speak in response to a direct question and during an appropriately timed conversational pause. We studied these conventions in the context of an automated operator service. Our results indicated that a prompt-arranged as a leading question, followed by a brief pause and then a list of key words-met our goals for both the initial prompt and, if ASR failed. a subsequent reprompt. This approach resulted in fast, accurate responding, a user interface that received high user acceptance ratings, and an interface that was usable by both novice and expert users.
Let me start by briefly describing the cooperative process. EAGLES (Expert Advi-sory Group on Language Engineering Standards) is an initiative of the Commission of the European Union, whose purposes include producing specifications and guidelines, and encouraging cooperation between industry and academia, and between European countries. The initiative comprised five working groups, one of which--the Spoken Language Working Group, WG5---is responsible for the handbook under review.
The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of recognizer accuracy and vocabulary size on performance of a speech recognition system. Subjects ranging in age from 20 to 55 years performed a data-entry task using a simulated speech recognizer that simulated three accuracy levels and three levels of available vocabulary. The accuracy level at which the recognizer was performing significantly influenced the time to complete the task as well as the user's acceptability ratings but had only a small effect on the number of errors left uncorrected. Available word-level vocabulary size also significantly affected the task completion time; however, its effect on the average number of uncorrected errors and on the acceptability ratings was negligible. Age of the subject was found to influence both objective and subjective measures. Older subjects required more time to complete the tasks, though they consistently rated the speech input systems more favorably than did the younger subjects. Minimal experience with computer text editors may account in part for the speed differences between older and younger subjects.