Bullet Course on Spoken Dialogue Systems

Designing and Testing Spoken Dialogue Systems
a DUS/ELSNET Bullet Course
April 16-18, 1997

Why this course?

Many organisations, both in the commercial and in the non-profit sectors, spend considerable amounts of money on person-to-person communication with their customers, where intelligent speech-understanding computer systems could do the same job in a more adequate and cost-effective way. Typical examples are call centres, where incoming phone calls are answered (if they are requests for information) or routed to their destination. Other examples include railway or airline time-table information services, ticketing systems, and banking by telephone.

Dialogue is the key element that determines whether a spoken-language system actually works for the customer. This is where user-centered development of systems has its greatest leverage. But given the fast pace of change in speech-understanding technology, what makes a dialogue effective? What are the underlying principles of dialogue, the design methods, and the professionals' techniques for developing effective spoken-language systems?

The objective of the DUS/ELSNET Bullet Course 'Designing and Testing Spoken Dialogue Systems' is to give an overview of what is possible right now, and at the same time an insight in what will be feasible in the near future. To this end, the course will familiarise the participants with the way state-of-the-art dialogue systems work, and the techniques through which they are designed and tested. These technical insights are a prerequisite for any decisions concerning the introduction of spoken dialogue systems in an organisation.

Who should attend?

The course is intended for potential users of state-of-the art technology in spoken dialogue systems. These include technology providers as well as companies who wish to make their services more efficient or cost-effective (e.g. call centres). The course is geared particularly towards personnel at (sub) management level, with a technical background, for whom it is useful to get acquainted with the possibilities and limitations of spoken dialogue technologies.

Learning objectives

For spoken-dialogue systems to be effective in real-world use, the dialogues need to be expertly designed and then carefully tested. This 'bullet course' will build skills in these areas by providing participants with both (1) the basic knowledge of interaction design that will enable development of new applications and (2) the practical knowledge of field experience that will create dialogues that work. The course covers:
  • Principles of interaction and context that lead to sound design of dialogues
  • Fundamentals of the dialogue design process, including application of dialogue theory to specific domains
  • Dialogue management techniques
  • Design and acceptance testing
  • Real-world experience with dialogue systems
Key points in the course will be illustrated through the building of a prototype dialogue system so that participants can gain experience and expert feedback on use of these techniques.

Course outline

DAY ONE (Wednesday, April 16)


  • Overview
  • Dialogue theory
  • Practical exercise: 'cognitive walk-through'
  • The specification and design process
  • Solution architectures

DAY TWO (Thursday, April 17)


  • Speech understanding and dialogue management -- problems and solutions
  • Dialogue management -- building a sample application
  • Practical exercise: data analysis
  • Tools

DAY THREE (Friday, April 18)


  • System testing
  • Acceptance testing
  • Wrap-up and feedback
  • Panel: 'dialogue systems in the real world'

The teachers

The course will be taught by three leading experts in the field, who have extensive expertise in the design and development of spoken dialogue systems. This will guarantee that the audience will get acquainted with the most advanced developments in the field, without losing contact with real life problems.

Harald Aust, Philips Research, Germany Harald Aust, Business Manager of Philips Voice Control, a new speech recognition company within Philips Research, has about five years experience in research and development of dialogue systems. He developed the technology behind the first publicly available automatic information system that can be used with ordinary, fluent speech.

Norman Fraser, Vocalis, UK Norman Fraser is Advanced Prototypes Manager at Vocalis, the specialist speech recognition and voice processing company he helped set up in 1993. He has been active in the field of speech and language processing for more than a decade, with experience of working in both academic and industrial settings. From 1989 until 1993, he played a leading role in SUNDIAL, one of the largest ever spoken dialogue research projects. He has written extensively on the subject, especially on dialogue system design, evaluation and applications. He currently manages the European Commission REWARD (Real World Applications of Robust Dialogue) project, and is a part-time Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Surrey.

David G. Novick, EURISCO, France David Novick is Director of Research at EURISCO, the European Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Engineering. As a computer scientist, Dr. Novick has published many research papers in the field of spoken-language dialogue systems in proceedings such as ICSLP, ISSD, CHI, TWLT and ICASSP. In his research, he led the development of dialogues for multiple spoken-dialogue systems, including the Automated Spoken Questionnaire (for the U.S. Bureau of the Census) and the Appointment Scheduling System (for U.S. WEST Advanced Technologies). He was the principal author of sections on spontaneous speech phenomena and on CHI research directions for national research assessments in the U.S. Dr. Novick has taught courses and workshops in dialogue, communication and interaction for over 15 years.

The organisations behind the course


ELSNET is the 'European Network of Excellence in Language and Speech', funded by the European Commission under the ESPRIT programme. ELSNET's main objective is to promote and facilitate the integration of language and speech technology, and to ensure a continuous transfer of knowledge and expertise between academia and industry. The ELSNET Bullet Courses are one of the instruments used for knowledge transfer. ELSNET has currently as its members some 70 prominent research teams from academic institutions all over Europe, and some 50 leading industries in language and speech technology.

Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS

Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS is a research institute of the Faculty of Arts of Utrecht University. Its goal is to develop scientific expertise in language and speech. It sets out to achieve this goal by carrying out a research programme comprising fundamental and applied research on language and speech and by offering a high-quality graduate programme to qualified PhD-students. OTS seeks to promote intensive co-operation between several areas of linguistics and related disciplines outside linguistics such as logic, computer science, and cognitive psychology. One of the main objectives of OTS is to transfer information to groups and institutions external to the University. OTS is currently the coordinating site of ELSNET.


De Utrechtse School (The Graduate Professional School) of Utrecht University exists since 1995; its main objective is to enhance high-level postgraduate education in the field of humanities and languages/arts studies and social studies. The common character of the study programmes within De Utrechtse School is the focus on professional practice: attention is not only given to the transfer of knowledge, but also to important skills and attitudes. In order to develop initiatives for courses, De Utrechtse School provides financial support, but also provides advice with regard to marketing and designs.

Date and Venue

The DUS/ELSNET Bullet Course 'Designing and Testing Spoken Dialogue Systems' will be held from Wednesday, April 16 to Friday, April 18, 1997. The course will take place at 'Hotel/Restaurant Oud London', a conference centre in Zeist (close to Utrecht), The Netherlands.

Hotel/Restaurant Oud London
Woudenbergseweg 52
3707 HX Zeist
The Netherlands

Course Format

The DUS/ELSNET bullet course is an international three day course, consisting of seven 3-hour sessions, starting at lunch time on day one. The course language will be English. Participation is limited to 25 persons.

Registration Information


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