Host: Lucy Olivia Hopkins, Digital Marketing Manager, We Build Bots
Guest: Craig Pugsley, Director & Creative Lead, Studio Flow
Lucy Hopkins: Hi Craig. How are you?
Craig Pugsley: I’m good thanks. How are you?
LH: Yes, I’m good thank you. Thanks for coming on The Botcast!
CP: It’s an absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me.
LH: You’re very welcome. So, I know you’ve just got back from IFA 2018 in Berlin. How was that?
CP: Oh, it’s crazy. It was my first time going to any of these big conferences. I haven’t been to CES either. And usually I’m always behind the stand as well selling some products or demoing some features or whatever. But this time I got an opportunity to go to one of these big shows and actually be a punter walking round. It’s just insane. You had halls that were full of fridges and vacuum cleaners and then right next door to them you had these crazy robots. AI powered, autonomous, home help robots that were carrying drinks around and could talk to you.
LH: No way.
CP: Yes. It’s a bit of a Mecca for any tech enthusiastic I think, going to see CES or IFA. And it really felt like I’d be making a bit of a pilgrimage – not to push the religious analogy too far, but it felt like it was a, kind of, coming home going there. Crazy.
LH: That’s so cool. It sounds epic.
CP: Yes, it was. And it’s so busy as well. It had thousands and thousands of people there all vying to see the new product that’s just been released or to get the shots that they need for their press stuff. Actually, one thing that was really weird is that it was open to the public as well.
CP: Yes. One minute you could be talking to the CEO of Vodafone and the next minute you’re talking to Henrick from Berlin just down the road who just happens to be really into the latest – I don’t know, vacuum cleaner or whatever.
LH: That’s really nice to have that mix.
CP: Yes, really good. Really interesting. It brings a really interesting dynamic to the whole event.
LH: Yes. What was the most interesting thing that you saw there?
CP: Oh, wow. Wellness is a big topic this year. So, there’s lots of devices for helping people track their wellness or advise them on ways of keeping more healthy and fit and nutritionally balanced. Segway were there with some really interesting new platforms for their urban mobility stuff.
LH: That’s cool.
CP: There was a couple of fridges there that were quite interesting, and I know I probably shouldn’t say that, it’s not very geeky, is it? But there was some really interesting new concepts for end to end food – like cooking basically. So, the idea of a connected fridge is fairly old and that’s been around for years. But taking it a step further in the food delivery chain and seeing what ingredients are in the fridge, automatically calling out to a grocery delivery service to get that food in the fridge. And then this one product providing a way for the consumer to cook that food based on the food that they’ve got in their fridge as well and providing recipes and the voice interaction that is included there. So, the whole thing was really interesting.
LH: Wow, that’s amazing. I would actually love one of those in my life.
CP: Yes, totally.
LH: That would be a game changer.
CP: Yes, any element that means you don’t have to think too hard about something like that is a winner, right? Because there’s times when I do want to cook and times when I don’t, and when I don’t I just want something like that to – not necessarily do it for me, but just to take all the hassle out, you know? More time for drinking wine, right?
LH: Yes, exactly. It’s all about convenience, isn’t it? I would love that. That’s so cool. Right, so let’s get on to you a little bit then. So, I know that before you became the Director and Creative Lead at Studio Flow, you were the Principal UX Designer at Just Eat, is that right?
CP: That’s right, yes. So, I led the creative direction for Just Eat’s product research team.
LH: Very cool. I heard that you created the UK’s first e-commerce Alexa skill?
CP: Yes, we did.
LH: Tell us more...
CP: So, the way that we work in product research was that we were very lean and iterative. We ran lots of different experiments. We were doing drone delivery one week, the next week we were doing all kinds of crazy stuff.
One of the experiments that we ran was around conversational interfaces and ways for people to order food. A bit like the telephone and ringing the restaurant up but where the service would know who you are and what your orders were and you could make amends to it really quickly, and it’s really about driving that convenience factor.
So, we ran all these different experiments and Alexa or voice interface ordering was by far one of the most successful experiments that we ran. So yes, a long story short, we developed a very strong relationship with Amazon. We were given one of the first Echo devices in the UK and that gave us an opportunity to just explore what was possible on the device and do loads and loads of research on what the best mechanism for ordering would be. And then yes, when it launched we were there on day one with a skill that enabled users to order food with their voice.
LH: That’s awesome.
CP: Yes. It was a really, really eye-opening experience, not just because it was the first voice interface that, you know, I’d designed for. It was also a whole brand-new product category that was coming to the market and you could tell that because it had been so successful in the US and Amazon had iterated them a product and on Alexa herself in the US. Bringing it to the UK was, you know, in some respects proven. The technology was proven in the US. But in some ways because of the cultural implications of voice, interfaces were a bit of a grey area, bit of an unknown.
So, I think even Amazon were a bit – not hesitant, that’s the wrong word, but Amazon were super interested in what would work really well with the UK consumers. And, you know, as it turns out, the UK loves a takeaway and the UK loves convenience, almost disproportionately so compared to other countries. So, having a skill for Alexa when they launched felt like a no brainer really.
LH: Yes, definitely. So, being in voice from such an initial stage you must have learnt so much in such a short period of time because obviously it was so new and, like you said, there were so many grey areas. What do you think the biggest roadblocks were initially with developing voice?