“Phantom friend” or “just a box with information”: personification and ontological categorization of smart speaker-based voice assistants by older adults

Alisha Pradhan, Leah Findlater, Amanda Lazar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations

Abstract

As voice-based conversational agents such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant move into our homes, researchers have studied the corresponding privacy implications, embeddedness in these complex social environments, and use by specific user groups. Yet it is unknown how users categorize these devices: are they thought of as just another object, like a toaster? As a social companion? Though past work hints to human-like attributes that are ported onto these devices, the anthropomorphization of voice assistants has not been studied in depth. Through a study deploying Amazon Echo Dot Devices in the homes of older adults, we provide a preliminary assessment of how individuals 1) perceive having social interactions with the voice agent, and 2) ontologically categorize the voice assistants. Our discussion contributes to an understanding of how well-developed theories of anthropomorphism apply to voice assistants, such as how the socioemotional context of the user (e.g., loneliness) drives increased anthropomorphism. We conclude with recommendations for designing voice assistants with the ontological category in mind, as well as implications for the design of technologies for social companionship for older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number214
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Volume3
Issue numberCSCW
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications

Keywords

  • Anthropomorphism
  • Older adults
  • Ontology
  • Personification
  • Smart speakers
  • Voice assistants

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of '“Phantom friend” or “just a box with information”: personification and ontological categorization of smart speaker-based voice assistants by older adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this