Pushed Alerts and Notifications

One of the interesting applications that was explored by Ubi users was push alerts. With the Ubi, you could trigger alerts to the device — either as text to speech or as mp3’s that would play from the device.

There were some very interesting applications that came out of this ability:

  • Alerting the kids to come down for dinner. Users would speak into an Ubi in the kitchen and the Ubi in the kids room would either speak a transcribed version of the speech or a pre-defined text, e.g. “your presence is requested in the dining room.”
  • Getting Android alerts announced. This was really interesting. Google Now is an amazing tool that can predict when it’s time to leave for work or catch your flight, or that a package shipped. We could use an app like Augmented SmartWatch to push these alerts as HTTP requests to the Ubi Portal and then down to the Ubi. It could also read text messages out loud as they arrived. This was great — until the Ubi in my (open) office started to read out loud text messages from my wife.
  • Pushing voice messages. This is a cool feature of the SpeakChat app we released on Android/iOS. You could send a voice memo from your phone to the Ubi. The implementation was a bit crude. The voice memo would play once and be gone. If you were on the receiving end and you missed it, that was it. One time, I was running late and sent a SpeakChat message to the babysitter at home and 1) it was a bit startling and 2) me neglecting to explain what the Ubi was / did, she tried to speak back.
  • Waking up to music / having triumphant entrance music. We could push an HTTP request to the Ubi to have it start playing a file. The trigger could be time or an API call — or a request from another device. Or a request from the UbiCC app.

What we learned from push notification is that it works really well sometimes as direct play or text to speech but often, it can be startling. The way Google Home presents alerts (in the concept video) is interesting. A gentle tone notifies of a message and then the user has to prompt. The same can be communicated through a light indication on the device or an app alert to check the echo. Also, it’s important that alerts can be retrieved even after they’ve been played once.

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