, Volume 9, Issue 1-2, pp 1-15
Date: 12 Oct 2006

One family, many voices: Can multiple synthetic voices be used as navigational cues in hierarchical interfaces?

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Abstract

Many commercial applications use synthetic speech for conveying information. In many cases the structure of the information is hierarchical (e.g. menus). In this article, we describe the results of two experiments that examine the possibility of conveying hierarchies (family of trees) using multiple synthetic voices. We postulate that if hierarchical structures can be conveyed using synthetic speech, then navigation in these hierarchies can be improved. In the first experiment, hierarchies containing 10 nodes, with a depth of 3 levels, were created. We used synthetic voices to represent nodes in these hierarchies. A within-subjects study (N = 12) was conducted to compare multiple synthetic voices against single synthetic voices for locating the positions of nodes in a hierarchy. Multiple synthetic voices were created by manipulating synthetic voice parameters according to a set of design principles. Results of the first experiment showed that the subjects performed the tasks significantly better with multiple synthetic voices than with single synthetic voices. To investigate the effect of multiple synthetic voices on complex hierarchies a second experiment was conducted. A hierarchy of 27 nodes was created and a between-subjects study (N = 16) was carried out. The results of this experiment showed that the participants recalled 84.38% of the nodes accurately. Results from these studies imply that multiple synthetic voices can be effectively used to represent and provide navigation cues in interfaces structured as hierarchies.