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Bringing everyday transparency to voice-based interfaces

Provide good data use transparency through voice-based interfaces without disrupting people's intimacy and ongoing activities in the household.
Product Context

Ditto is a companion app for a connected speaker system that includes a voice assistant used to control music, answer questions, play movies and manage other connected devices.

In order to provide the service, Ditto is powered by different types of data, including:

  • The Ditto speaker system and companion app both include a voice assistant. The voice assistant uses voice recognition to identify different users and access appropriate information for them.
  • Ditto may access third party services you have authorised including your music streaming service or your calendar.
  • The Ditto speaker is always listening but uses 'sleep' mode when not in use. You can 'wake' the device by using the phrase “Yo Ditto [your request]”. While in 'sleep' mode the speaker cannot connect to the Ditto server and no data is logged from your device.

Problem & Opportunity

Voice-based interfaces are made to be as immediate – and therefore frictionless – as possible, as they are meant to become part of the household. In such environments, how can we inform people about how their data is used in real time, in a continual but yet un-disruptive manner?

How might we...

...How might we inform people about how information is being used in a voice environment?

Team Ditto going through the critique phase

Design Features
Signal third party data access through subtle visual cues

Whenever Ditto is listening to a request, the device indicates it is listening through light signals and cues. Building on this core part of the interface, Ditto lets you know when it's receiving data from another personal account by modifying the size of the light cue and matching it to the third party's identity.

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Design Features
Complementary, cross-device transparency

While the visual signal on the Ditto device instantly signals that cross-platform data sharing is happening, it only provides high-level transparency. The Ditto app acts as a counterpart to it, providing detailed information about what exactly is happening and linking to additional material. Rather than duplicating a message, the physical and digital interface complement each other, therefore avoiding information clutter. Once a user is familiar with the light display on the speaker, transparency will be guaranteed without disrupting the experience.

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Next steps

People care about their information being abused or misused in any environment and even more so when it comes to devices that step into their homes. And while transparency is key, swamping people with data use notices won't do any good, neither on phone-based interfaces nor with Internet of Things appliances. Relying on consistent, clear yet subtle patterns to keep people informed looks like a promising solution: it doesn't disrupt their everyday life but lets them know when something out of the ordinary is happening.

How might we build on Ditto's ideas to...

  • Using familiarity as a channel for transparency
  • Design technologies with a non-linear experience curve: one that grows with the user and what they do or don't accept over time.
  • Build interfaces that only disrupt people when it's worth it – whether they are touch or voice-based.
  • Provide not only transparency but data control through voice-based interfaces.