Most objects are created by man to fulfil a function, itself generated by a need. It may be considered that only artistic creations have no need to supply men with functional objects or tools, although works of art themselves meet a need, which, however, cannot be described as functional but rather a need for expression and communication.
All objects, however functional they are, incorporate aesthetic dimensions. A simple stroll around the hammer counter of a DIY shop will confirm this. Shapes, colours, materials and packaging are some of the aspects of shape and design on which creators and marketing work to promote the object (the product) and set it apart from its previous version or those of its competitors . The balance between function and aesthetics will depend on the object as well as on fashion and trends.
Even though the dichotomy between function and form appears to be facile or even trivial to achieve (the form is only considered by some to be a common, ultimate touch of paint, whereas everything in the object is expressed by its function), several creators and designers have asked questions on the relationship between function and form. The objects and buildings produced by the Bauhaus School are among other things an attempt to reply to these questions. They show clearly that function and form are inextricably linked from the start of the design procedure and that there is no reason to separate them.
At present, users have developed expectations and even requirements, which are expressed by the taking into account of a new dimension in creation, with regard to products. Products should no longer merely meet a need by being useful and simple to use; they must blend into the way of life of the users by providing them with a certain pleasure . Designers must concentrate on what Pat Jordan [JOR 01] describes as affective design or emotional design . Given that large numbers of products have similar prices, functions and ease of use, Jordan claims that the difference between them in the market is based on the affective and emotional dimension they have to satisfy . The success of certain models of mobile phone or the Imac appears to confirm Jordan's theses.
All of the views we have set out on objects in general obviously apply to communicating objects in particular. For these, equipped with functions that are ever more subtle as a result of the new technologies they incorporate, are now capable of hearing (word recognition) and speaking (voice synthesis). However, as we stated in the introduction, we may consider that, emotionally speaking machines and objects are currently still deaf and dumb. In view of the preponderant role played by emotions in vocal communication (see paragraph 3.1.) and the increasing importance of the aspects of pleasure in using products, as evoked by Jordan, it appears inevitable that changes in the development of communicating objects will include taking emotions in the voice into account, whether these relate to the input (voice command by users) or output (restitution by synthetic voice) of the system.