Playgrounds: Week 9

Week Nine was a week of taking the note. It was not particularly easy, but we are better for it.

Halves Presentations were a large portion of the week. With twelve project teams presenting, they covered the full afternoon of both Monday and Wednesday. Going on Monday, we offered our initial pitch: A guest would volunteer a movie, which Assistant would pull a genera from, and then use that genera to determine a base alcohol.  How the guest felt about the movie would provide a color. Using those metrics to draw from a drink database, the guest would then be given a drink. After the second day of presentation had concluded, faculty convened to give feedback to each team.

Our feedback from Halves was not what we were hoping for. Faculty doubted the viability of such a programmatically dense system. Beyond that, there were concerned about the transparency of a system like that. Even if we could explain how 101 Dalmatians lead to a Mango Daiquiri internally, the system stood no chance of making sense to a naive guest going through an experience with less than a 90 second dwell time.

Possibly the most damning critique was that we had lost the fun. In an experience that was supposed to surprise and delight, we had spent so much time focusing on the tech that we had neglected the detailed design of the experience.

This was sobering for the team. However, we did not come here to fail.

After hearing the news, the team rallied,  regrouped with our advisers, and figured out a new direction. Taking Thursday to lean into our content pivot, we began exploring a new direction. Instead of going for a more technically impressive, free flowing conversation, we began developing a tighter, more enjoyable experience. Assistant is no longer going to pull your drink out of thin air in a technological magic trick; to get your drink, you now have to spend some time letting Assistant get to know you.

By creating questions for Assistant to ask and for the guest to answer, we began to leverage what makes the Google Assistant so fun; its personality.  Additionally the back and forth can be used to collect information directly from the guest’s experience, allowing for a much clearer connection. If your answers to questions could be seen as confident and adventurous, being told that your drink was selected for you because Assistant thinks it’s a good match for your confident and adventurous personality has a direct personal connection.

Though we were working with little time, we fleshed out a start-to-finish paper prototype of the idea to pitch to the client team. There response was heartening; it had the tone and feel of what they wanted. We were also able to discuss what a way forward might look like using this design, and ways to check in as we started down this design path, to make sure we didn’t loose our way again.

We have a long way to go. But at least now we know we’re on the right track.