Failure to Connect: “Would you like me to diagnose connectivity issues?”

Several years ago, I lived and worked a year in Reno, Nevada. Deemed the “Biggest Little City in the World”, my heart holds a special place for the perfectly planned city. Contrary to popular belief, this small town is actually hundreds of miles from Las Vegas, Nevada. Instead, Reno resides on the east side a giant mount range and on the west side of a barren desert.

Through its four-season charm, including hiking, snow skiing and kayaking, this place was a nature-lover’s paradise by day. By night, the downtown glows in neon as the casinos light up with new restaurants, theatre shows, and the sparkle of a rotating slot machine. Despite my admiration for the mighty little town, there was one glaring thing that took this Midwesterner by surprise — the failure to connect.

What do you mean my 2-day shipment is delayed by a week and can’t get from California — just 30 minutes away? What do you mean the news reporter had to record her story on a phone because the satellite couldn’t connect to the news van? What do you mean a couple was stranded nearly a month in the desert because their car broke down and they lost cell service?


Lost Signal

The feeling of isolation and frustration flooded me as I thought back to my simpler times looking out over a cornfield and seeing the horizon. The Wild West comes with many challenges from fires to snakes to droughts, but I never imagined that in the era of modern times I could be without connectivity.

For much of the country, connectivity is anything but guaranteed. So, when it comes to our cars, being connected to the cloud isn’t guaranteed either. This is one reason Nuance looks to have both cloud and embedded solutions. Beyond the benefits of quicker responses and processing, an embedded solution also allows your infotainment system to continue to work with your go-to requests like asking for directions, music, etc. Additionally, linking it then to the cloud allows access to a wealth of information from the internet, once your car re-gains connectivity. This hybrid solution gives you the best of both worlds. The seamless experience we have all come to know and rely on in our car and the depth and breadth of knowledge linked to the cloud.


Turning to Voice System Users

Recently Nuance’s DRIVE Lab conducted a study on connectivity, investigating what types of commands users absolutely can’t go without, even when they have no connectivity. In this study, we learned that there are two main groups when it comes to a failure to connect:

1) Those who want a system to repeat exactly what they asked

2) Those who want a system to be as short and quick as possible.

A third group was discovered when we asked users what could make the voice system better; this group wanted to know the status of the connectivity issue and how to fix it themselves. One participant said, “I’d love each statement to follow with the question, ‘Would you like me to diagnose connectivity issues?’” Another said, “What would be helpful is a system asking if it should try again when connectivity is restored or within a specific period of time such as 5 minutes.”

Often, we think of the cloud as the end-all-be-all of information, and in many ways it is. The cloud allows us access to our personal information, allows us to connect with our friends, and allows us to get that song that we forgot to download. This third group, seeking to regain connectivity, really points to the need for connectivity — even when it isn’t possible. If a system fails to deliver on a person’s expectations because of a loss of connectivity, users will try to fix the violation of expectations themselves. Often, we see users talking louder or over articulating words just to get that consistent system experience back. This is why cars need a part of their voice system to be embedded. The embedded part of a voice system allows the system to maintain that seamless voice experience even when the cloud is out of range.

Just like Reno’s motto of the “Biggest Little City” – even with the Biggest cloud solution, you still need a Little embedded solution to get to the best user experience.

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.