Time has shown that the way we interact with technology changes. The first computers were programmed with punch hole cards. Later we added a keyboard, mouse, joysticks, controllers and a plethora of other input devices. More recently we've become accustomed with touch screens and gestures but the latest advances in voice interfaces have given rise to a wave of personal assistants such as Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant.
This opens up a new way for people to interact with their favourite apps and services. For simple tasks it's great way to quickly get things done without having to find your phone - I often use Siri to set timers while I'm cooking or to create reminders.
We always want to experiment with new technology and see whether or not it's something we can use to improve the Sorbet experience. We've always had the idea of creating a personality to handle some AI tasks so we ran an internal competition. The plan was to come up with ideas to show how we can use Alexa and our own smart personality - that we're calling Scoop - to enhance the experience for our users.
Reporting an issue - by Tom
One of the most important features in our Tenant app is the ability to report issues quickly. Tom took this idea a step further and got rid of the device completely. Just like how you'd report an issue by phone, tenants can just tell Alexa what the problem is.
Get details about your property - by Matt
This idea from Matt gave us a good laugh in the office. We've all had times when we've forgotten to ask important questions and moving in to a new property is no different. Now, Scoop has got your back but be careful, she can be quite sassy!
Find local contractors - by Simon
If you've ever moved into a property and wanted to add a personal touch then this one is for you. Scoop can find nearby contractors and help you get in touch with them. No more searching Google and trying to dig out reviews and contact details. We also know that voice interfaces have their limitations so we can send the results straight to your phone.
Reminders to return keys - by Brooke
One of our mission statements at Sorbet is to keep everyone in the loop and connected. Sometimes an agency needs to give a contractor a little nudge without disturbing them - perhaps they're stuck underneath a sink or have their hand up a U-bend. Here's an idea that lets agents send out a quick reminder that the contractor can pick up the next time they check their phone.
Making it all work
An honorary mention goes out to Sarah our Systems Architect who did the real hard tasks by working on integrating our Sorbet API with the Alexa skills and figuring out how to authenticate users so we know who they are when they ask Scoop a question.
Designing with voice interfaces really got our creative juices flowing and we came up with a broad range of great ideas. We're hoping that we'll be able to put some of these into action soon and use this new way of interacting with Sorbet to release some really useful features.