COLLABORATE16: Bots & Virtual Reality

Last week, Ben (@goldenmean1618) and I were in Las Vegas for COLLABORATE. We ran two studies which focuses on two trending topics in tech: bots and virtual reality!

Bot Focus Group

Our timing for the bot study was perfect! The morning we were to run our focus group on bots in the workplace, Facebook launched it’s bot platform for messenger. They are not the only ones with a platform. Microsoft, Telegram as well as Slack has their own platform too.

The goal of our focus group was to generate ideas on useful bots in the workplace. This can range from the concierge bot that Facebook has to workflow bots that Slack has. To generate as many ideas as we could, without groupthink, we had everyone silently write down their ideas using the “I WANT [PAT] TO…SO I CAN…” Tower of Want framework I stumbled upon at the GDC16 conference last March.

Not only do you distill the participant’s motivations, intents and needs, but you also acquire soft goals to guide the bot’s development. Algorithms are extremely literal. The Harvard Business Review notes how social media sites were once “quickly filled with superficial and offensive material.”

The algorithm was simple, find the articles with the most clicks and feed them to the users. Somewhere, the goal of QUALITY highly engaged articles were lost to highly engaged articles at the expense of QUALITY. Intention is everything.

“Algorithms don’t understand trade-offs; they pursue objectives single-mindedly.”

Soft goals are in place to steer a bot away from unintended actions.

After the ideas were generated and shared, we had them place their bot tasks on a pain/frequency chart: How painful is this task for you to do? and How frequently do you need to do this task?

Then it was time for the business origami! Business Origami is similar to a task flow analysis that uses folded paper cutouts as memory nudges. We now have our bot tasks, but we do not know (a) what triggers the task, (b) what the bot needs to know to do its job and (c) what the desired output is. We modified the Business Origami activity with the inputs and outputs that a Resource Flow activity demands.

Before our customers created their own flows based on their best bot task idea, we did we group warm up. The flow below illustrates the flow of scheduling and booking meeting rooms. Everyone was involved as they talked about the myriad of ways that would trigger the act of scheduling a meeting, the mediums of communication used, what they would need to know in order to schedule that, and what feedback is needed when the task is done.

Virtual Reality Guerrilla Test

For 3 days, Ben and I ran a guerrilla study to get customer’s and partner’s thoughts on VR and where they might find it useful in their work/industry.

Our customers experienced virtual reality through the Samsung Gear VR. It relies on our Samsung Note 5 to deliver the immersive experience.

$99 Samsung Gear VR. The consumer version of the Oculus powered head mount display (HMD).

Because of the makeup of our audience at the demo pod, we had to ensure that our study took approximately 5 minutes. We had 2 experiences to show them: an under water adventure with the blue whale in the Artic Ocean (theBlu) and a heart-pounding task of diffusing a bomb (Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes).

Everyone really wanted to reach out and touch the sea animals. 2 reached out and accidentally touched Ben and I and freaked out at how realistic the experience was! Another case for haptic gloves? 🙂

One of our participants had tears in her eyes after she experienced TheBlu Arctic while another participant wanted to play 3+ games of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes!

Overall, no one felt nauseous. The game control came easy to those who had experience playing XBox and Playstation, while others were able to learn through the gamepad tutorial. Playstation VR makes learning even easier for newcomers since you can see a ghostlike view of your gamepad in VR.

Mostly, our participants confirmed use cases that we found from our first VR study at Modern Supply Chain back in January 2016. We ran 20 participates that month as an onsite guerrilla study. We ran all the participants through 2 applications in a 30 minute session: Swimming with Dolphins in Ocean Rift and  Exploring a car show in Relay Cars.

One of our participants had a fear of being underwater. Even though she felt a bit nauseous, she did not want to take the headset off!

The tutorial was a breeze to get through. Unlike Ocean Rift where you need to navigate and swim by using the trackpad on the headset, Relay Cars used gaze control for selection. This means that my looking at a navigation button for 2-3 seconds makes an automatic selection for you without having to reach for the trackpad.

The goal of our initial guerrilla VR study was to find if people would actually wear a headset at work (majority said yes) and what VR could be useful for (many, many ideas). Today we have shortlisted that list and are developing a demo to come.

You can read more on the value of guerrilla testing and how to run one here, and learn more about how we approach research in the AppsLab here.

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