May/June 2004

Profiles for Speech Application Users

By Dr. James A. Larson

A user profile contains information that describes how to personalize a speech user interface to meet the needs for a specific user. For example, a user profile might contain the following information:










Many other parameter values may be stored in the user profile. An application should adjust its presentation based on data in the user profile. This extends the number of users who can effectively use the application.


Another way to extend the number of users who can successfully use an application is to create a standard key sequence to change the parameters in a user profile. For example, North American users press standard key sequences for special purposes: 911 for emergencies, 411 for directory service and 0 for operator. Another standard key sequence should be reserved for changing the parameters in the user profile. In the January/February 2003 issue of Speech Technology Magazine, the “Technology Trends” article summarized a basic set of universal commands for telephone users.

( One of these commands is “profile” (as well as the German, Spanish, Italian and French equivalent word) for changing pre-set parameters. Any user should be able to say “profile” to invoke a standard script for changing parameters in the user profile. Users should be able to invoke this standard dialog at any time, from any speech application, whenever they need to create or change user profile parameter values.


User profiles have proved popular and useful for many types of user interfaces. Speech user interfaces are no exception. Profiles allow users to personalize their user interfaces, which, in turn make users more comfortable and productive.



Dr. James Larson is Manager of Advanced Human Input/Output at Intel Corporation and author of the book, Voice XML – Introduction to Developing Speech Applications. He can be reached at and his Web site is