Bringing Deadtime to Life

The awful thing about a commute is not the drive itself, but the starvation of human interaction, being stuck, and wasting time. Nuance brings life to the drive through human connection, productivity, and voice, so that the time isn’t wasted, but lived.
Bringing Deadtime to Life

Tap, tappy, tap…this is me drumming at the steering wheel waiting for the car to warm up just a few more degrees so that I may peer through the frost-covered glass and start the weekday commute. Detroit is a city of drivers.

Shaped like a pinwheel, branching out like spokes from the center point of downtown the busy traffic starts on the rims and narrows to the center. Unlike many cities, Detroit is shaped like a wheel sliced in half, with the Detroit River swallowing up the southside of the city. Within eyesight and earshot of the river is Windsor, home to many more international commuters ready at the wheel. Between Canada and the U.S., thousands of commuters pile onto the roads every day with coffee in hand and determination in heart.

Like spaghetti noodles stretched across a dinner plate, the highways around Detroit curve, interlace, and overlap. These highways require some foresight and knowledge to precisely navigate what lane to be in and when, but for the veteran commuter, this day is like every other – a drive in the car watching the minute hand tick by with each brake pedal press. What can be done to make this exercise in patience more tolerable?


Talking naturally and clearly through the system

Like Frankenstein rising from the steel table, the “deadtime” of a drive also gets new life with the addition of voice-enabled technology and smart assistant functionalities. Thanks to advanced capabilities introduced by the Nuance Dragon Drive platform, state-of-the-art infotainment systems connect me with people I care about, despite being miles apart. Thinking of my friend, I can send messages, schedule meet-ups, or simply talk with that person through the voice-enabled system. It allows me to live in the moment, alert and focused on driving, while talking with my friend.

Recently, I was in China where cars inched their way forward in merging traffic, pointing their nose into the new lane long before their lights signaled the change. Soon I will be back in Germany, where cars move with precision and purpose. With authority and order, a car will move over to the left and quickly pass the car on their right and then take the lead in that car’s lane. Detroit is something different; a race. Detroit is a race to be first in line, first to the light, and first to get nowhere in a hurry.

There is a competition going on – drivers want the left lane. Cars weave in and out through the traffic like a needle gracefully dipping and diving through button-filled traffic. Just like the dance of the driver, the voice system too can allow for seamless interaction – a winning feeling of sorts.


Driving with intelligence

Many people say the competition is just getting out the door, but I feel the competition is just getting out of town. Sometimes I have to make several stops before swiping my keycard and clocking in at the office. These are the times when I need a system with intelligence – one with Smart Domains. Smart Domains are system features like phone, radio, and navigation that connect with the internet to bring the driver external content services. Equipped with broad domain coverage, Smart Domains can enable assistants to meet even the most complex, multifaceted requests. These domains encompass multiple sources and an established history, allowing it to act on input like, “Find a good coffee shop with WiFi en route, about two hours from the meeting—and make sure I turned the living room thermostat to 50.”

Detroit isn’t a loud city. My workdays are filled with your typical bustling and car noises, but there is no yelling or honking to be heard. The city is filled with those Midwestern workers –workers rooted with the grit of a blue-collar machine worker, exhaustion of an early-morning farmer, and the gumption of a Big Ten Team.

When the work day ends, the homework begins. I constantly have a mental checklist list of items to complete on my traffic-clogged commute home: Place an online order from my favorite store; order the large pizza for the family to be delivered in time for dinner; turn on the heat in the house so it isn’t freezing when I arrive. In the future, this checklist shrinks with the help of Nuance’s cognitive arbitrator. The cognitive arbitrator commands multiple virtual assistants through the use of a single virtual assistant. I simply talk, and the system gets me to the right application. Need to check that bank account before ordering the pizza? No problem. The cognitive arbitrator knows who to ask.

When I arrive home tonight after some white-knuckle moments and some kind merger wins, I think back on the drive. The awful thing about a commute is not the drive itself, but the starvation of human interaction, being stuck, and wasting time. Nuance brings life to the drive through human connection, productivity, and voice, so that the time isn’t wasted, but lived. This is a day in the life of a Detroit-commuter and I will do it all again tomorrow.

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Dr. Carie Cunningham

About Dr. Carie Cunningham

Dr. Carie Cunningham is User Experience Researcher at Nuance Communications. In this role she is responsible for qualitative and quantitative testing, research, and analysis through the use of focus groups, in-depth interviews, eye tracking, surveys, and experiments with the DRIVE Lab. Carie has researched users’ preferences of multiple virtual assistants and the personification of those assistants. She has also tested users’ driving performance while engaged with their infotainment system and voice-enabled technology. Most recently, Carie has done several exploratory studies on trust and learning around AI and VR. She is interested in attention and cognitive processing in media communication and interactions. Carie is a former television news producer and assistant professor.