Week 5: 2/12-2/18

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This past week, we hosted ¼ walk arounds with the faculty to discuss the state of our project, and where we can move forward over the course of the semester.  The beginning part of the week was focused on stabilizing the demo, debugging the playthrough, and incorporating the sound assets from Seth’s recording sessions the week before.

Some of our feedback included the below:

– Design challenges of the Echo?
– Treating Alexa as its own entity is interesting (like Her or Hal)
– How do you know if it’s a success?
– Binary Prime interaction – how do you know if you have enough?
– Narrative changes if the demo includes kids
– Pick up on listeners’ own paranoia (Black Mirror / War Games / 2001 Space)
– Fairly evocative of what kind of story with this interaction – CSI computer
– Using the echo to “find stuff”
– Pay attention to metaphor and user fantasy (wish fulfillment, pleasing, tricks)
– Relationship with Alexa – who is the user in the story?
– speaking as a superpower (lawyers, wizards, detectives, lovers…)
– Be sure to prompt the user to what role they play
– How do we perceive choices given to us verbally?
– Needs personality (Her, Hal, Siri) – “Hey Puter”
– Think about categorization for menu selection
– What will you do with this? What is our case?
– Need to account for a wide variety in “Binary Prime”
– Challenge to make linear elements engaging
Much of our discussion used our short demo as a jumping off point both for the design of our natural interactions as well as the potential of the story moving forward.  We ran through most of the afternoon without issue, but a bug developed where the sound file would abruptly exit the skill in the middle of a session (unprompted).  As a result, we had two groups unable to play through the full demo.

Our demo consisted of a scenario where the user played a judge in deliberations for a bench trial in a case based on Little Red Riding Hood – the script and details are featured in the last blog entry.

After discussing the comments as a group, the team decided to reexamine what we wanted our “discovery” project to be – many little projects that show off interaction, or one prototype that tries to incorporate them all?  Something that has an emphasis on story, or something that uses story as the vehicle to serve the interaction development?  We all knew that story and interaction needed to work hand in hand, but felt a bit challenged when we tried to envision a story to craft in the remaining 10 weeks of the semester.

We returned to the elements of our original pitch – linear story, focus on the method of delivery (smart home) and if we could adapt it from an existing story structure, we would.  Both Seth and Sarabeth spent the weekend going through our inspiration board, focusing on the structure of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast. What struck us was how it broke the story into two parts, the first a alternate reality of a radio broadcast, and the second, a diary account of a character featured in the first part.
Moving forward, we will be using the structure of WotW as inspiration for how to craft a story that utilizes the circumstances of its own delivery to the user, namely interacting with Alexa as an antagonist.  On a technical note, Phan and Roy have begun playing with new interaction methods, including emotion level and menu selection.  The next week we will come together to outline a combination of design desired interactions, confirmed interactions already developed, and stretch goals for how we can best integrate both sides.