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Aug 7, 2019

AI in focus: Artificial intelligence & positive UX

It's the talk of the day: artificial intelligence (AI). If you want to join in the conversations, you shouldn't miss our series "AI in focus" on this groundbreaking topic. In the third part, Michael Burmester looks into the question of why AI is suited to achieve positive user experience (UX).

Future scenarios

Once digitization and AI have intruded our everyday lives, 50% of all jobs will be lost. Not all of them can be replaced by new ones. The fortunate few that still have a job will be overburdened with information and multitasking. And anyhow, the new technologies will be hard to use and obscure. These are common nightmare scenarios in connection with the spread of AI. But why, despite all the skepticism, don't we try to develop a positive scenario of our future with AI?

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Positive UX and AI

Positive UX is more than just good usability. It develops when certain psychological human needs such as autonomy, competence, stimulation, relationships, popularity and safety are met. And it is AI of all technologies that is ideally suited to create positive UX. Because AI can gather know-how on certain topics, the user's work and interactions while continuously referencing and expanding it. Moreover, AI can interact more like a partner, promoting true cooperation instead of the mere use of a computer system. We will use a study of Stuttgart Media University HdM to illustrate how this can be employed for positive UX.

Wizard of Oz experiment

This study simulated the behavior of a digital companion. The scenario: Participants have to plan a workshop with the help of a digital companion. However, the study didn't involve a real AI system but a Wizard of Oz prototype, in which the study leaders simulated the intelligent performance of the system in the background. This included voice reactions of the AI system that had previously been recorded using a speech synthesizer and were played by the study leaders from an adjoining room as needed. Screen messages, too, were created there ad hoc.


A second study involved two different AI variants: The neutral variant passed on knowledge and answered questions on request. Hugo, the second variant, was designed to foster positive experiences. To this end, the findings of 350 interviews were analyzed: HdM had asked employees what work experiences they rated as being positive, summarizing the results in different categories. Three of these categories were implemented in Hugo.

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Mastering challenges

Hugo continuously gave the participants feedback on where in the planning process they were and what tasks still had to be fulfilled. This helped the participants master the challenge of planning a workshop. They felt effective and were able to address the need of feeling competent, the study revealed.

Teaching others

<p>There were situations in which participants made suggestions that Hugo was unfamiliar with. In that case, Hugo asked whether the new information should be added to its knowledge base. This made the users feel good as they could share their knowledge.<br /></p>

Creative cooperation

<p>Working as a team also makes people feel good. Hugo took up suggestions, answered questions, gave hints and drafted guidelines for the presentation. The participants and Hugo worked together to plan the Workshop – true team spirit.<br /></p>

Hugo impressed everybody

20 participants worked with the neutral version and 20 with Hugo. After the session they all described their positive and negative impressions. The result: Not only was the interaction with Hugo rated as being more natural but also as more positive. The participants considered the voice of the neutral AI system to be less pleasant than that of Hugo. This is all the more surprising given that both voices were absolutely identical. This lead to the conclusion that a lack of positive experiences seems to effect the perception of AI.

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How can positive UX be created using AI?

As we have seen, AI is very well suited to create positive UX in the working environment. In the next issue of "AI in focus", we will follow up on the subject of positive UX. How can user-centered AI be created? What traditional methods and principles can be transferred onto human-AI interaction to achieve positive UX? And where do we need new tools and methods? And just for the record: It is indispensable for us to break new ground as AI is new territory for everyone. But after all, this is what constitutes the innovative strength of AI.

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The author

Michael Burmester, professor at the Stuttgart Media University HdM and UX expert, writes for UID.