[ 13] Pullin, G. “Curating
and Creating Design
Collections, from Social
Mobiles to the Museum
of Lost Interactions and
Six Speaking Chairs.”
Design and Culture 2,
[ 14] Cook, A. “Your
Favourite Thing Would
Like to Sing.” Presented
at NIME, New York
[ 15] These descriptors
are taken from a George
Bernard Shaw’s stage
directions. Shaw, G.
B. Pygmalion. London:
Penguin Classics, 2003.
[ 16] DynaVox. Tango!
September + October 2010
[ 17] Speaking Unit.
“Speech Hedge.” July
boxes, and the familiar controls out of contex—is
designed to reflect this, designed to look not
designed as much as displayed. The project is as
much an exercise in curation as creation [ 13].
Chair No. 5. The Reassuring/Undermining
Chair offers more abstract control. The user hits
a drum pad, and the way in which it is hit and
the material with which it is hit determine the
timbre and intonation of the utterance. Confident
hitting will trigger “yes” and “no” responses
in different tones of voice; lighter tapping will
produce the type of paralinguistic sounds (for
instance, “uh-huh” and “ye-yeah”) that lubricate
conversation, encouraging or undermining the
other person while they are speaking without
interrupting them, yet which are not even part of
current TTS systems.
As with any musical instrument, practice
would be required to explore this relationship
between action and sound. We are interested
in how accessible, rewarding, and expressive
this might be for people with differing musical
abilities. This approach has been informed and
inspired by Cook’s “Tactophonics”, an exploration of intuitive interaction with computer music
underpinned by the concepts of affordance and
expressive performance through objects as varied and unexpected as tree branches and baseball bats [ 14].
... and materiality in interaction design
This has also led us to consider a role for physical materials as part of the user interface. How
might the qualities of materials translate into
voice quality? Waxy, woolly, glassy, porcelain,
dark chocolate, even “rich fruitcake” might all
bring to mind a particular voice quality. Here, as
elsewhere in interaction design, material qualities offer underexplored opportunities for associations that are familiar and intuitive, yet abstract
and open to interpretation.
Chair No. 6. Lastly, the Terse/Roaring Chair
has 17 doorbells, each of which offers a different description of tone of voice, from coaxing
to coyly, from whimpering to whispering. These
descriptors are taken from stage directions by the
playwright George Bernard Shaw [ 15].
In communication devices, a selection rather
than a manipulation may be more appropriate
after all, since speech impairment is so often
associated with other physical impairments.
But 17 choices are many more than existing
AAC devices. The “Tango!” by Blink Twice [ 16],
in many ways the state of the art, allows a child
to speak, shout, whisper, and whine (note that
none of these are emotions). This is wonderfully
expressive for a young child, but for adults, tone
of voice is richer still and more finely nuanced—
and more personal.
Following the Chairs
We believe the challenge ahead, on the project
that is already following this [ 17], is to embrace
this complexity of coexisting models while maintaining simplicity of interaction. It does sound
very challenging—but at the same time, it is an
appropriate contribution for interaction designers
to make to this fascinating interdisciplinary area.
AbOut the AuthOrs Graham Pullin is the
course director of Digital Interaction Design at the
University of Dundee in Scotland, author of Design
Meets Disability, and curator of the Museum of Lost
Interactions (MoLI ). He spent nine years at IDEO as an
interaction designer, project leader, and studio head.
Andrew Cook is a graduate of Interactive Media
Design (the previous name of Digital Interaction
Design) and an interaction designer currently com-pleting doctoral research. He is also a musician
under the moniker Samoyed and co-founder of the
record label flask.
© 2010 ACM 1072-5220/10/0900 $10.00