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Points Made forum and website is © 2019 as a collaboration between Banter TechnologiesTurn-Key Events, and Phillip Hunter.

Points Made Program

Points Made co-founders Susan Hura and Phillip Hunter and our speakers are working to make sure you’ll leave the forum having explored and influenced the future of human-machine conversation. 

Tuesday, October 22


12:00 - 5:00 pm

1:30 pm

2:00 pm




3:00 pm



4:00 pm




5:00 pm





6:00 - 8:00 pm



Ann Thymé-GobbelConversational Technology is Brittle

Creating natural conversational voice solutions takes a lot of careful work, but when good design, powerful language models, impressive recognition, and robust implementation all line up, it seems there's no limit to what today's voice solutions can provide. And yet, even the very best voice solutions are brittle. Conversations go off in the wrong direction all too often, even when the requests are fully specified and well formed. And it affects user trust in voice solutions and desire to use them.

There’s a lot of enthusiastic new blood in conversation design with a variety of backgrounds making “discoveries” of things that have been well documented for years. Why are we reinventing the wheel? How do we give people the linguistic and HCI tools they need to supplement their general UX backgrounds? How do we bring current and future practitioners of conversation design up to speed quickly and consistently?

Rachel Withers“Alexa, are female-voiced smart speakers sexist?” Thinking about the issues surrounding gendering AI

Jenni McKienzieVoice: The “New” Modality

A woman’s place is still in the home, apparently. The digital assistants filling homes across the globe—Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, and Alexa—are all “female” in voice and personality by default, ostensibly because users prefer a female voice for their assistant. But why do they, and what does having a “woman” on hand to answer every demand with unfailing politeness mean for our perceptions of women, our role, and human interaction more broadly?

Nick EnfieldConversation is Social Glue  KEYNOTE 

In this talk, Enfield will make the case that conversation is fundamentally grounded in the concept of joint commitment  via three core ideas. First, conversation is essentially collaborative in nature. For someone to play a speaker role, someone else must play the role of addressee. Second, playing a social role means committing to certain rights and duties. This means agreeing to be held accountable (and to hold others accountable) for acting in accordance with the relevant norms. And third, all conversations instantiate interpersonal relationships, whether they are shallow or deep, fleeting or enduring. When we look at conversation, we see that language is primarily not a messaging system but a kind of social glue.

Networking Reception: Location TBA

Wednesday, October 23


Gretchen McCullochHow Linguists Think About Informal Language  KEYNOTE 

8:00 am - Noon

8:30 am

9:00 am


10:00 am




11:00 am




12:00 pm

1:00 pm

2:30 pm


4:00 pm

Most language tools are trained and designed on formal language, such as books, newspapers, TV shows, and radio, but in everyday life we produce a lot more informal language, both in terms of voice conversations and written text message exchanges. How does conversation differ from the paragraphs of text that many people think of when they think language, so that conversation designers don't need to reinvent the wheel.


Welcome and Recap

Chris GeisonConversational Cars & Homes: Emerging Tech & Context-Driven Design

How does context inform the way we design conversational interfaces? Designing  ubiquitous interactions is a familiar idea, but we need to shift towards ubietous interactions that are grounded in a physical place. How do linguistic, cultural, psychological, temporal, and physical factors contribute to context? What research methods and design tools are available to assist context-driven design?

Lisa MichaudThe Human Behind the Curtain

The ideal objective of conversational AI should be to create effortless interaction with a system that exhibits human levels of understanding.  Modern AI marketing can make this task sound trivial; it portrays the algorithms as magic black boxes that can be deployed in minutes with minimal effort and learn new behaviors without human involvement. Technical and scientific realities are that the challenges of natural language interaction require human involvement at almost every stage until an application has matured into near-independence. How do we achieve alignment with consumers and customers when the popular depiction of AI undermines us?


Jonathan Bloom: Good enough conversational design

How do we design for people right now, before all the promises of digital assistants come true? I propose creating a "holding environment" for them (to borrow from psychoanalysis), one that is imperfect but "good enough" and fosters discovery.

Jonathan BloomDesigning for Right Now

How do we design for people right now, before all the promises of digital assistants come true? I propose creating a "holding environment" for them (to borrow from psychoanalysis), one that is imperfect but "good enough" and fosters discovery.

Panel and discussion: Data, Ethics, and Privacy

description coming

Next Steps and Closing Comments

Conversation design for humans