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Quantifying the Effects of Prosody Modulation on User Engagement and Satisfaction in Conversational Systems

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Document pages: 5 pages

Abstract: As voice-based assistants such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant becomeubiquitous, users increasingly expect to maintain natural and informativeconversations with such systems. However, for an open-domain conversationalsystem to be coherent and engaging, it must be able to maintain the user sinterest for extended periods, without sounding boring or annoying. In thispaper, we investigate one natural approach to this problem, of modulatingresponse prosody, i.e., changing the pitch and cadence of the response toindicate delight, sadness or other common emotions, as well as usingpre-recorded interjections. Intuitively, this approach should improve thenaturalness of the conversation, but attempts to quantify the effects ofprosodic modulation on user satisfaction and engagement remain challenging. Toaccomplish this, we report results obtained from a large-scale empirical studythat measures the effects of prosodic modulation on user behavior andengagement across multiple conversation domains, both immediately after eachturn, and at the overall conversation level. Our results indicate that theprosody modulation significantly increases both immediate and overall usersatisfaction. However, since the effects vary across different domains, weverify that prosody modulations do not substitute for coherent, informativecontent of the responses. Together, our results provide useful tools andinsights for improving the naturalness of responses in conversational systems.

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