About this Research Topic

Manuscript Submission Deadline 05 October 2022

Voice is today an ever-increasingly studied, promoted and employed medium for interacting with computers. The growing popularity of commercial smart speaker systems, from Amazon's Echo to Google's Home in particular, has made voice-based interaction via conversational agent an everyday reality for many. And these systems have been furthermore proffered as means of addressing the ever-pressing challenges of healthcare in the twenty-first century – including expanding access to care while maintaining a personal, human, engaging and caring touch.

In an era where instant voice processing/ speech recognition has become a reality, the rising popularity of voice-based interactions is not surprising. In fact Voice-based interaction has increasingly been positioned by researchers and developers alike as a means of achieving this very aim through the provision of empathetic, intuitive, calm and unhurried care. And applications of these technologies indeed now span from in-home companions for the elderly to the delivery of questionnaires, the recording and summarization of clinical interactions, and even the conduct of therapy.

With these new and emerging applications of voice-based technologies, have arisen also new conceptions of the users of these tools; no longer constrained to purchasers of at-home commercial systems but expanding to also encompass patients and health professionals of many and diverse kinds. And yet, few systems employed in practice today comprise tools for patient-centered purposes beyond note taking. Many questions remain in relation to these still-emerging technologies and their adoption for care – including to what extent voice-based interaction is truly the future of healthcare, and where we must draw lines in relation to considerations of risk, opportunity, ethics and bias.

With this Research Topic we wish to welcome all perspectives highlighting the opportunities and risks of employing voice-based interaction in healthcare with the overarching goal of identifying valuable purposes and highlighting good practices for the design, creation and use of these technologies. This may include, but is not limited to, research investigating voice-based interactions to: support improved clinical workflows/ decision-making processes; increase participation in care by relevant stakeholders; develop a more deeply-engaged and engaging machine dialogue where appropriate and desired; or otherwise contribute additional value to people and work-processes. We also encourage works that bring considerations to many of the personal, social and ethical implications that voice-based interventions can have if they were to find widespread, successful adoption in health practices, and were to truly transform the field of healthcare.

Keywords: Human-Computer Interaction, Voice User Interfaces, Conversational Agents, Virtual Agents, Healthcare, Digital Health, Digital Mental Health, Patient-Centred Care, Digital Scribe, Applied Machine Learning, Human-Centred Machine Learning (HCML), Innovation


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Voice is today an ever-increasingly studied, promoted and employed medium for interacting with computers. The growing popularity of commercial smart speaker systems, from Amazon's Echo to Google's Home in particular, has made voice-based interaction via conversational agent an everyday reality for many. And these systems have been furthermore proffered as means of addressing the ever-pressing challenges of healthcare in the twenty-first century – including expanding access to care while maintaining a personal, human, engaging and caring touch.

In an era where instant voice processing/ speech recognition has become a reality, the rising popularity of voice-based interactions is not surprising. In fact Voice-based interaction has increasingly been positioned by researchers and developers alike as a means of achieving this very aim through the provision of empathetic, intuitive, calm and unhurried care. And applications of these technologies indeed now span from in-home companions for the elderly to the delivery of questionnaires, the recording and summarization of clinical interactions, and even the conduct of therapy.

With these new and emerging applications of voice-based technologies, have arisen also new conceptions of the users of these tools; no longer constrained to purchasers of at-home commercial systems but expanding to also encompass patients and health professionals of many and diverse kinds. And yet, few systems employed in practice today comprise tools for patient-centered purposes beyond note taking. Many questions remain in relation to these still-emerging technologies and their adoption for care – including to what extent voice-based interaction is truly the future of healthcare, and where we must draw lines in relation to considerations of risk, opportunity, ethics and bias.

With this Research Topic we wish to welcome all perspectives highlighting the opportunities and risks of employing voice-based interaction in healthcare with the overarching goal of identifying valuable purposes and highlighting good practices for the design, creation and use of these technologies. This may include, but is not limited to, research investigating voice-based interactions to: support improved clinical workflows/ decision-making processes; increase participation in care by relevant stakeholders; develop a more deeply-engaged and engaging machine dialogue where appropriate and desired; or otherwise contribute additional value to people and work-processes. We also encourage works that bring considerations to many of the personal, social and ethical implications that voice-based interventions can have if they were to find widespread, successful adoption in health practices, and were to truly transform the field of healthcare.

Keywords: Human-Computer Interaction, Voice User Interfaces, Conversational Agents, Virtual Agents, Healthcare, Digital Health, Digital Mental Health, Patient-Centred Care, Digital Scribe, Applied Machine Learning, Human-Centred Machine Learning (HCML), Innovation


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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