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What happens before we make a command to Alexa, Siri, or Google? A request via voice is the end of a long set of branches of internal decisions that are happening in one’s mind. Understanding these internal cues might help us design for the later stages of voice interaction.

The stages before receiving a response from a voice interactive devices can be describe as:

Desire → Thought → Vocalization → Anticipation

Desire. This is an unconscious process that leads to some action. It might happen spontaneous or as the result of some type of stimuli. Perhaps there’s a release of Serotonin or another neurotransmitter that cause a cascade of feelings to perform an action. All of this happens pre-cognition. Maybe it’s a memory of an event that leads to wanting a song.

Thought. This is the step where we try to make sense of what our mind wants. It’s when we start to ask ourselves questions and investigate the stimuli. What is it that we want? Do we have the means of fulfilling this desire? If not, how do we acquire the means? What can help us get there?

Vocalization. This is where we do natural language generation and think about how we phrase our request to fulfill our desire. This is also the part that motor neurons are fired, making our mouths form the right shape and for our vocal cords to vibrate.

Anticipation. Once we’ve completed the vocalization of our request, we start to attempt to anticipate the response already. Our belief in whether the response is correct will come from how much we perceive a difference between what we anticipated and the actual response.

There are likely some other details and steps that can be considered in developing this chain, but understanding it better might mean that in designing voice interaction systems, we can prime users to expect certain actions. Expect lots of growth in this area over the next five years.

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