CoCoon pioneers a virtual office assistant for the new normal on Google Assistant, powered by Delight Labs

“In the new normal, we’re providing smart office spaces that are self-guided and interactive for guests who prefer social distancing. That’s why we built a virtual office assistant on Google Assistant with the help of Delight Labs.”

— Erica Ma, Co-Founder of CoCoon

Summary

CoCoon is a leading entrepreneurship community and office space in Hong Kong.

As a partner of Google for Startups, CoCoon has organized 600 startup events and engaged 28,000 participants. Its alumni entrepreneurs have raised over US$670M in funding.

In the new normal, CoCoon co-founder Erica Ma saw the need to reinvent the office space into a smart space that respects social distancing and contactless interactions.

Leveraging Google Assistant, CoCoon built a virtual office assistant with the help of Delight Labs. The virtual assistant helps visitors go on self-guided interactive tours, answers questions about membership, provides instructions on amenities and updates members on the latest events.

The future of workplaces is a blend of human and virtual assistance. Under Erica’s leadership, CoCoon is making bold strides to digitally transform spaces.

CoCoon in the new normal

The New Normal is fundamentally reshaping how we work and how we function in office spaces. Already, companies are calibrating in-office vs remote work. Commercial landlords are re-configuring spaces for social distancing.

Innovating at the frontier of contactless is CoCoon. With 600 startup events held, a reach of 28,000 participants and US$670M raised by alumni, CoCoon is a leading entrepreneurship community and office space in Hong Kong.

Google for Startups’ collaboration with CoCoon

In addition, CoCoon has a venture capital fund investing actively in the next generation of entrepreneurs. It is also the partner of Google for Startups in Hong Kong, and together they pioneered 92 Express to empower global women hardware founders.

The future blends human and virtual assistance

When COVID-19 hit the world, the CoCoon team knew both the nature of work and offices would have to change. “What if our members wish to minimize human contact? What if our concierge is out to lunch or in a meeting?” pondered Erica Ma, co-founder of CoCoon.

“In the new normal, we know social distancing will be the norm. So the future will be a blend of human assistance and virtual assistance,” added Erica.

With Delight providing the technology, CoCoon designed a voice-enabled office assistant to serve tenants and members who prefer contactless service.

Upon entering CoCoon, you still see the front desk that is present in most large offices. However, in addition to concierge staff, you will also see a sign that tells you CoCoon has a virtual office assistant available on Google Assistant to serve you.

From that point on, if you prefer, getting assistance becomes as simple as saying “Hey Google, talk to Hong Kong CoCoon” to your own phone.

Hey Google, ask Hong Kong CoCoon about membership / rental / corporate innovation / xyz

Usually, when you walk into a shared office space for the first time, you ask for a tour of the premises. If you are happy with what you see, you ask the staff about joining membership. The first day you move in, you ask many other questions — how printer, coffee, wifi works etc. Six months in, you are curious about the latest events and programming.

You can do all the above with CoCoon’s virtual office assistant, which is automating more and more parts of content communication and service provision for commercial real estate. Here is a video showing how guests preferring contactless will experience CoCoon’s smart space:

One major advantage to building on Google Assistant is the solution will work out of the box for the 1 billion+ Android users with Google Assistant built-in or installed. There is no need to download another app or fumble with typing in a website. You can just talk to CoCoon on Google Assistant immediately anytime anywhere.

For CoCoon members who are iOS users and have installed Google Assistant on their phones, they get to enjoy the same user experience too.

Making spaces smart

Erica envisions voice assistants having the potential to transform physical spaces into digitally augmented worlds. Not requiring customers to download an app or type in a website link is important — that transformation should feel natural and frictionless for the customer.

At CoCoon, speech bubbles are placed at strategic spots to remind customers they can ask CoCoon’s virtual assistant for specific pieces of information or services. It is like an art gallery where you can talk to an invisible assistant to learn more about a painting, rather than having to scan a QR code or unlock your phone to do a web search.

Like how the QR code has become ubiquitous as a way for businesses to help users go from offline to online, Erica sees voice assistance as a new way for businesses to quickly connect something customers see in the real world to their digital stories.

“I feel the market for voice can be very broad. Shops, malls, restaurants, museums — tell me more about a particular product or painting, show me more pictures of the linguine vongole, bring up the mall directory — all without having to download an app,” said Erica Ma.

“As a partner of Google for Startups, we want to empower more startups to build on Google Assistant and unlock the future of voice interfaces.”

Delivering value

Using Delight’s software solution, CoCoon was able to start preparing for the new normal and successfully unlock business value as follows:

  1. Offer virtual assistance to customers who prefer social distancing
  2. Fill in the gap for staff working from home or on flexible hours
  3. Create an additional customer engagement channel
  4. Provide automated conversational support to off-premise customers
  5. Engage early adopter customers with exciting technology

When asked why CoCoon felt the need to build a virtual office assistant now, Erica suggested it is both in CoCoon’s DNA as well as their customers’ DNA. “In 2012, we founded CoCoon with an audacious mission — to re-ignite the entrepreneurial spirit in Hong Kong. So constant innovation is in CoCoon’s culture,” said Erica.

“We see voice as the most efficient way for humans to interact with computers. Our community consists of pioneering entrepreneurs, and they expect us to stay ahead of the game,” added Erica Ma, co-founder of CoCoon.

With its virtual office assistant built on Google Assistant, CoCoon has helped many of its customers keep interactions virtual and socially distanced. With a little assistance from Delight, CoCoon may be in the beginning of pioneering contactless solutions that will shape commercial real estate and other industries for years to come.

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Virtual Assistant / AI Assistant / Voice

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