Speech Technology on Trial:
Experiences from the August System

Joakim Gustafson and Linda Bell
Centre for Speech Technology (CTT), Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
{jocke, bell}@speech.kth.se


In this paper, the August spoken dialogue system is described. This experimental Swedish dialogue system, which featured an animated talking agent, was exposed to the general public during a trial period of six months. The construction of the system was partly motivated by the need to collect genuine speech data from people with little or no previous experience of spoken dialogue systems. A corpus of more than 10,000 utterances of spontaneous computer-directed speech was collected and empirical linguistic analyses were carried out. Acoustical, lexical and syntactical aspects of this data were examined. In particular, user behavior and user adaptation during error resolution were emphasized. Repetitive sequences in the database were analyzed in detail. Results suggest that computer-directed speech during error resolution is increased in duration, hyperarticulated and contains inserted pauses. Design decisions which may have influenced how the users behaved when they interacted with August are discussed and implications for the development of future systems are outlined.