Domestic appliances have replaced much human labour in the home. But how human do we want these devices to be, and how much autonomy do we want to give them? To throw some light on these questions, first the use and limitations of conversational agents (natural language interfaces) are discussed. Then some aspects of the experience of families living in a smart house are described, and compared with that of employers of servants in nineteenth century Britain. On the basis of this research it appears that people do not want household devices to be very human, and do not want to give them much autonomy. Designers are recommended to observe two rules: smart domestic devices should put people firmly in control and should as far as possible be unseen and unheard.
Back | TIS Home