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April 8, 2015

Speaker: Professor Cosmin Munteanu, University of Toronto Mississauga

Title: Breaking the barriers of conventional interfaces: natural interactions with assistive technologies

Abstract: Humans' natural abilities have allowed us to interact with the surrounding environment in complex ways, from easily manipulating physical objects to communicating with others through speech. Yet when we interact with many digital technologies, we largely do so by ceding direct control and instead employing (digital) proxies. For marginalized user groups, such interactions may present insurmountable barriers that only widen our information-centric society's digital divide. While speech and multimodal interaction are often challenging computationally, I have shown in my research that, despite their inherent lack of accuracy, they can empower the users and allow them to interact in almost material ways with digital artefacts. This has the potential to make assistive technologies more interactive and more adoptable by their users. In this talk, I will briefly discuss how speech processing, despite its inherent limitations, can be used to enhance current interaction paradigms. I will then argue that such natural interactions can enable humans to break the barriers of conventional interfaces and be particularly useful in improving marginalized users' interaction with assistive technologies. To support this, I will present several examples of multimodal assistive technologies that support older adults and low-literacy adults in their daily lives.