Charlie: Final Presentations and Reflections

Monday was our final presentation for our chatbot, “Charlie” for our Designing Innovation class.

For Qinyu and I, getting to this place was not easy but it sure was a lot of fun with loads of lessons learned along the way, but before I dive into those lessons, below is our final presentation to our class, our professor, Lien Tran and our guest, Rebekah Monson.

You can also view our prototype of Charlie.“There are some quirks, as it is only our second iteration but we think it gives a good sense of “Role and Look and Feel”, two types of prototypes and the relationship between them. [1] Implementation, a third type of prototype would be the next big leap; something I would love to make happen. (Note: as serious as this post was intended, I could not help but think of Captain Picard in Star Trek, “Make it so)

Lessons Learned

Lessons learned is something I have lodged in my brain since teaching my own students at Newhouse. For nearly every project submission, I asked them to submit 3-5 lessons learned to get to know them at first; to understand what they need to learn, and to understand their thinking.

Now that I am a student (again), below are mine and I hope to write more and in more detail about these in the near future since during this project, I not only got a hairline fracture in my dominant hand but also severe tendonitis from repetitive trackpad use!

Anyway, here is one of the big takeaways so far. I’ll write more later as I’m eager to share in case others may find my experience helpful.

Conversation is the User Experience

I can no longer recall what my expectations (assumptions may be a more appropriate word) were when I came up with “Charlie” but I read a lot online about designing chatbots and while I was drawing out (ok, attempting to draw) out storyboards, it dawned on me that my time would better be used writing.

This article, Therapy via conversational design by Kathleen Varghese and the documentation for Google Assistant, IBM Watson and various other sources (Thank you everyone who publishes on Medium) were critical to my learning since I was not enrolled in any course about chatbots or artificial intelligence. (Note: Dr. Ching-Hua Chuan, PhD., is our expert on campus and I did speak with her a few times and need to more.)

Given the minimal UI of a chatbot, the conversational flow between bot and user is mission critical. That seemed like a no-brainer when it hit me but up until that moment, I was still thinking visually.

So for anyone new to chatbot design, focus on the words and tone to give your bot the appropriate personality for your target audience.

Book about designing chatbots
Amir Shevat’s, Designing Bots: Creating Conversational Experiences, a must-read book for anyone interested in designing bots.


References

[1] Houde, S., & Hill, C. (1997). What do prototypes prototype?. In Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction (Second Edition)(pp. 367-381).

Chatbot: “Charlie”

After a conversation with Professor Tran and several conversations with my team partner, Qinyu, I decided to pursue my chatbot concept in full force.

Well, almost. I’m currently poking at the keys because I suddenly developed severe pain in the lower part of my thumb which makes typing and micro movements excruciatingly painful. This, after dealing with a hairline fracture … I mean, seriously??? The timing could not be worse. Anyway, I’m plugging along as much as I’m able. 

I’m excited and nervous. There’s a lot to still learn and doing this on my own for a specific timeframe feels daunting. But, my excitement at the moment makes it seem doable. I have to present in less than two weeks. So much for Thanksgiving break. Eep.

So, what do I do when I know there are many tasks in a project? Make a list! Here’s my list of actions for Project Charlie (in no specific order):

  • Do more research.
    • Read more articles and gather more information about Alzheimer’s
  • Define an audience.
    • Is this for all caregivers or ?
  • What is the primary function?
    • Therapy? Coaching? Both?
  • Define a personality or persona for Charlie.
    • Character based or ?
    • What kind of language will he use?
  • Come up with a different name for the app. (Maybe)
  • Define scenarios
    • Where will Charlie be used? How will users feel? (Maybe more of a journey map?)
  • Storyboards
    • Drawing may be a problem
  • Create a user flow
  • Identify features 
    • What will users really need? Try to avoid doing too much
  • Create several conversation scripts. (This is going to be the most important step)
    • Learn how to create them.
    • Understand the jargon more
  • Content types. What types of content will appear in the chat?
    • Gifs? Emojis? Video?
  • Determine a mockup or prototyping platform/tool. 
    • How to make it feel as real as possible without an active database? (I don’t even know if that is the right term)
  • Define the look and feel.
    • Moodboard
  • Build the prototype.
  • Test the prototype.
    • Contact the people I interviewed

Lots to do! Hasta pasta.

Crossroads: This Idea or That Idea?

What do you do when you started down one path and all of a sudden another reveals itself? 

Just before Thanksgiving break, I found myself researching two ideas. I knew this wasn’t efficient but I felt compelled to explore the second idea more after the interviews I had conducted. Five interviews later I found that perhaps the initial idea Qinyu and I came up with wasn’t the best path.

This is the beauty of interviews.  They can enlighten you, challenge your initial ideas and lead you down a different path. Some may think this creates more work but I think it saves you time and money down the road.

What is the second idea? A chatbot I’ve nicknamed, “Charlie”.

Charlie isn’t really new. At least, not for me. He was one of the first ideas I had after the first interview but somehow during our initial concept meetings, Charlie was passed over for our smart entertainment system idea. So, Charlie sat on the sketch shelf for months, until now.

I hope to write more about Charlie and I’ve fractured my index finger so typing is incredibly slow and not easy. (I’ve developed tremendous amounts of empathy for people who lose digits or have arthritis … )

More soon …