Will voice commands take over?

Our most recent addition of family gadgets is an Echo dot, the Amazon device that does all sorts of random things for you based on voice commands. I have been meaning to test it for some time, mainly with the objective to find ways of creating interesting learning experiences. My partner questioned its use but joined in with testing her skills.

We had some fun trying out the variety of Alexa skills that are currently available. Some launched successfully and some didn’t get further than Alexa saying that she didn’t know that one. On occasion our pronunciation caused a bit of confusion, our shopping list included Lacoste and shapes instead of liquorice and chips, which was funny. At least we still knew what we were after in the store.

She hasn’t quite grasped how to breathe between sentences when reading a page, it is all one continuous flow, which at times is a bit bizarre and takes away from your comprehension of what is being said. the Guardian newsflash was impossible, but the BBC news one was perfectly sound, so we reckon it had to do with a computer or a person reading.

One thing I like a lot about this technology that you can ask for research and other facts, whether she finds exactly what you are looking for is to be seen. The effort of a command starting with Alexa is ultimately easier than starting a google search and I wonder if children grow up with this technology around them, will they eventually prefer to ask a device rather than type something in. We already know that searching online has largely replaced going to the library for most of us. So maybe this is the next step.

When it comes to work-related applications it may not be so easy to have an open plan office with several of these devices talking out loud. But I can see for example learning happening at home via these kinds of devices. A bit like a personal tutor showing up in your room.

In my opinion, the use of more and more technology together is where we will all find ourselves in the near future. Mixed reality helping us navigate the real world and improve our skills and I think voice technology fits right into this mix. Currently, Alexa is great at information sharing, just like most devices she is learning and technology behind it adapting and evolving.

Augmented reality at the moment still suffers from the fact that it is an overlay with rather clunky interaction opportunity from real to augmented reality. Virtual reality effectively blanks out reality, so you need to be in a place where it is safe to engage with this. Voice technology, however, can be used without humans having to change much of our behaviours, so the level of friction for its adoption is lower. Headsets are part of our daily practice and can be the device of choice on the move together with our phone for now.

Comprehension of accents will be the biggest challenge here. Siri has had trouble understanding me since it was introduced to my phone and still hasn’t improved greatly, Alexa has trouble with my partner who is a non-native English speaker. In comparison, I think Alexa does a little bit better than Siri, but I reckon it is a matter of time before all of them get to a reasonable standard of comprehension.

We are playing with Alexa to see whether we can make games for it, that goes beyond simple trivia quizzes and maybe our gamification card deck can come with Alexa instructions and randomisation to help you design better experiences. From a design perspective, it is a case of distilling your messages into simple commands whilst maintaining a friendly and fun spirit.

 

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GamiCon 2018 post event reflections

If you have been following my social media, then you know I was at GamiCon 2018 in Chicago, USA, a co-located event with Online Learning Conference from Training Magazine. My good friends Monica Cornetti and Jonathan Peters from Sententia Gamification and their team made the decision to organise this inaugural event to put together the first learning focused gamification conference in North America.

My journey started off literally with a bang, just after I arrived a massive thunder and lightning spectacle appeared, which unfortunately played havoc with a few people’s schedules. Thankfully it only lasted a few hours. The next day, we managed to explore a bit of the city and walk a small part of the Chicago Marathon trail, which was also due to take place that weekend.

GamiCon started with an escape room designed by Michiel Van Eunen with my team definitely not quite breaking out and none of the teams making it out in the allocated time. One group eventually managed to break through all the clues and release all of us. I think escape rooms are useful when you have a need for people to work together on problems that are maybe not so straightforward. We had fun and a good team dynamic.

On day 1 of GamiCon, the stand-out moments for me were the Amazon Alexa English accent training. Considering speaking assistant from Apple Siri (and probably Alexa) don’t understand me half of the time and give ridiculous suggestions, I thought this was a really useful way of training their people, who had to do transcription of voices. The other project that grabbed my attention was “You can’t gamify that” from Brown University, which took us through the journey of gamifying an academic humanities course into a multi-level quest with a fun storyline. It was well deserved that they won the best narrative and best overall project in the awards.

Project Throwdown

The project throwdown aka 3-minute pitches about our projects for the coveted gamification awards took me a bit by sudden surprise because all of a sudden lunch was replaced with giving a pitch. I must say all entries gave me great encouragement that those of us who have been evangelising about how to carry out gamification design for learning is having a positive impact and at least in this community is giving great results.

My personal favourite was the project for military service people learning on how to remain in a financially positive situation so they don’t have to leave the service. In a way, I saw it as a fabulous example of how gamification can make a difference. The learning included branching scenarios, instant feedback and people could test their decision-making practices in a safe online setting. The real epic meaning will come when this is rolled out for not just the military but also the general public in the USA.

After the official three minute pitch, we had more time to share our projects and answer questions for the judges. The judges apparently had a difficult task deciding on the winners, they had to meet three times to come to a conclusion.

Gamified event

Ambassador Adventure had people travel around various roundtables to listen to 10 minutes of wise advice or demos from people like my good self. I used my gamification design card deck to explain how I approach gamification in the corporate sector often with people who don’t play games. Participants travelled in teams and also experienced some augmented reality to guide them around the room as well as unravelling a word puzzle.

The main event app was a big hit, thanks to Bernardo Leytaf from Blue Rabbit. People were actively collecting login codes at the end of speeches, answering questions and sharing socially to gain coins for spending in the store on the app. Different levels gave different options for things like T-shirts, books, gamification card decks, courses, etc. Definitely worth looking into when you have events.

At every point, there were opportunities to experience gamification. I think it is the very first time a gamification conference was completely gamified with a variety of challenges, adventures, geo-tagging quest, escape rooms and much more.

Day 2

On day two Jonathan Peters took us through evolutionary psychology and the modern learner. He made great connections in how in history games have been part of our way of sharing information and how in some ways this was lost and now making a return. Motivation having more impact on how learners absorb information and in what way it is most effective for the individual.

He set up me up fantastically well to share my revised learning gamification framework, which I designed out of frustration of what I was seeing from learning technology organisations 5 years ago and for a majority unfortunately still today too. Although there are improvements happening. I am always surprised that in a learning audience, people have yet to come across ClassCraft, which in my view is one of the coolest learning platforms and great examples of gamification for long haul learning.

For those of you already familiar with my earlier version of the learning gamification framework I have added a few elements, namely why does your learner learn and what level of proof does the learner want to achieve. Between these two point we create gamified learning experiences. You can see my presentation on the slideshare link below.

Then Ahmed Hossan took us through his way of creating a blended gamification approach for increasing diversity and ways of how online and face to face learning could work well together. People collected physical badges, which looked a little like mini-awards, which you could keep on your desk. Dr Phillip Bush, then shared his experience of designing in two locations Yemen and Germany, and how they went about encouraging inclusion on both sides with a view of creating serious games for positive impact. I personally would love to see more projects for the greater good of humanity and encouraging peace, inclusion, understanding. Our world sure could do with these intentions.

Design sprints and workshops

Both on day 1 and day 2 we had the opportunity to try out design workshops and deeper dives into gamification from a variety of angles. Having observed a few of the groups, I have to say that our approaches the world over are very similar. I did my first ever workshop style gamification design workshop in Paris at the Gamification of HR summit in 2014 and I have seen various similar versions since. I guess the fact that design thinking and game card decks work well together. Marigo Raftoupolous levelled up our design workshops with an agile sprint approach and empathy mapping thrown in. I really enjoyed trying to solve our tricky problem and although our team had a slow start, we got there in the end.

Awards

The conference closed and merged with the opening of the Online Learning Conference with the training test kitchen and the awards for project throwdown.

The winners of the GamiCon 18 awards were as follows:

Best Overall project: “You can’t gamify that” – Brown University

Best narrative: Virtual simulations for therapists – Ryerson university

Excellence in eLearning or Web-Based Gamification Design: “Misadventures in Money Management” – Mechel Glass ( for defence forces in USA)

Best use of Surprise and Delight: ” You can’t gamify that” – Brown university

Excellence in no-tech gamification design: Hacksagon! Cyber Security board game for Chubb Insurance designed by Gamification Nation

Gamification Nation winning Excellence for no-tech gamification design Award at GamiCon18 in Chicago USA

We are for sure thrilled to have earned the no-tech award and our client is equally delighted. I also felt the competition was of great standard and I understand why the judges had so much trouble deciding on winners. It was great to see that we had not one single point-badges-leaderboard entry! This is telling of where our industry is heading and I consider it a fantastically positive sign.

With the jetlag wearing off a little, I feel grateful to have met so many fabulous people with shared interests. I guess if we could influence more and more of the wider learning community, over time what we saw in the award applications will become a new standard and drag all the reluctant hangers on to PBL lazy gamification into learning related gamification 3.0. I really feel we are moving in the right direction, let’s hope Europe can follow this lead.

 

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Popularity contests as the dark side of gamification

If you have been reading my blog for some time, you know my aversion for things like leaderboards in places where confidence building is more important. Yet in a lot of our social media channels, popularity contests are rife and there isn’t even a leaderboard in sight. I see playing towards popularity contests as the dark side of gamification, and maybe even larger than that humanity.

Social media likes, hearts and other emoji have been in our lives for a number of years, it is defining or validating the thoughts of a generation who grew up with social. In the early days and maybe still today, you could buy followers or likes to have your post rising to the top of a feed. It just shows that for everything that matters to a large enough audience, there will be a sales opportunity.

The people’s vote

In awards and popular tv shows, we have grown used to the people’s vote to select winners. It favours those with the biggest network and following. I am an avid viewer of the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing and in the earlier weeks, you typically find that those with the smallest following or least popular are voted out even if they are better dancers. In awards where there is a heavy reliance on the popular vote, again the same happens. In politics, we saw populist lies win a Brexit vote, yet the culprits remain unaccountable even though they have admitted lying.

The Losers

The real losers are those that have the ability and were left doubting that very skill because they didn’t play to the popularity contest. They often waited for merit to be recognised and hoped that somewhere objective measures would help them to win.

As a gamification professional, this bothers me. Yes, popularity contests have a place and have probably been part of humanity since its early days. Self-proclaimed leaders with followers that believed in your cause are rife in all of our history. No matter how many people study history we see the manipulation of truth happening all around us every day.

Yet it still bothers me that we have advanced so far in development and still resort to the same old game. In sports, we would disqualify those that use doping to enhance their performance, yet in business and in life we are not as strict.

What can we do about it

Becoming merit focused and objective, by definition means you need to know the criteria for selection and excellence. It also by default means you need to call out the cheaters and popularity riders. When we have gamification workshops with companies, we often have to address the concept of popularity contests and its downsides. If we don’t point out the obvious we are as much complicit to encouraging it.

If we look at some of the prestigious awards such as the Nobel prizes, we typically find they have been selected by an expert panel and the reasons why they won is usually hugely impactful and explained as part of the award. In a similar fashion, the Oscars are selected by expert panels. Neither awards have been completely void of bias, but when it is pointed out course changes have been made. The fact that the awards also come from non-profit organisations, who truly want to promote excellence in an industry help their acclaim.

Weighted point systems can overcome some of the challenges to balance popularity voting with expert overviews. Disqualification of entries who are cheating is another powerful measure and to make this knowledge public as well. I have seen some competitions where solicitation of judges or voting, in general, is a guaranteed track to be ruled out of the game.

If we want to be taken seriously as an industry, we have to bring up the serious side-effects of human motivation in our gamification design work. If your objective is to select excellence and encourage more of that, then clear criteria and measures need to be given either upfront or with qualitative feedback after the selection process. Quantifiable and verifiable claims are more impactful in my book than a large following based on hype and in some cases lies.

 

How to build a business case for gamification?

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Why understanding the process is key for gamification design

Gamification design is often applied to a business process and in order to come up with an engaging design, we need to understand the process in quite high-level detail. Explaining why understanding the process is key for good gamification design is not always easy.

Our clients will on occasion question why we need to know the process when really we are re-designing it in any case or just touching on one aspect of it. For example in corporate learning, we would want to know how a person finds out about a new course, how they sign up and how they then consume the content. In recruitment, for example, we would want to know how are people attracted into the recruitment process today, which includes where do they advertise and then we also want to understand the individual steps in the recruitment process.

Understanding the process and what then happens to the individual at each point is great source material for a narrative or theme of gamification. If for example there is no way a person will find out about a new course or a new position, as in the uptake of courses and applications are limited, then we would need to explore this further. If they are entering the process but they are dropping out later, for example, they sign up for the course or submit an application, but that is where the engagement stops, then we need to know why this happens.

What we also very often find is that what is advertised on websites, is not or no longer how the process works for most transactions. In one way, you have raised an expectation and when that isn’t met you lose the interaction potential to impress and keep the person moving forward. There may be good reasons why the process is different, so again we need to understand.

If a recruitment or course enrollment process takes a bit of time, we want to build that into our gamification design. If a specific test is required to enter, again we want to know and experience that to see what this entails and potentially build it into our storyline.

The key for us in understanding your process is to be in a position to identify meaningful touchpoints. These are points in the process where you can delight or depress and if you don’t actively take charge of those may impact positively or negatively on the people engaging with your process. There can be simple solutions, such as adding a game mechanic at that point or more complex ones where a pre-process narrative or game-like experience pre-warns you of what happens.

The thing to always be aware of is that gamification means that an individual stays in the process, whether that is learning, recruitment, buying, etc. As soon as we invite them out of the process and into a game, we are designing a serious game. Linking a serious game back to the process takes a bit of effort and needs to still make sense for it to be included. Our starting point for gamification is always process awareness, followed by meaningful touchpoints and then user research.

We also use surveys, interviews and workshops then, to back up our findings so we understand the full circle view from applicants, employees and administrators involved at the various stages. We may use all of what we find or small parts, depending on what we feel will make the most sense to motivate the end-user into action.

 

What are your deliverables?

 

When is what more important

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