March 2018 - June 2018

Conversational Digital Assistants with Ford Motor Company


Ford Motor Company and SCAD collaborated to research and develop multiple digital assistant use case concepts for driven and driverless vehicles.

Key Collaborators

Graeme Smith (Project Manager), Kauhi Hookano (Motion Design), Nolan Canady (UX Design), Rizwan Zaki (UX Design), Ashton Faydenko (Sound Design)

Role and Responsibilities

Research and Design Lead
Primary and Secondary Research, Creating research plans and scenarios for Wizard of Oz user research, Prototyping, Low to high fidelity design deliverables

Product Background

In Spring of 2018, SCAD collaborated with Ford Motor Company to research and develop multiple digital assistant (DA) use case concepts for future-facing Ford vehicles. The class consisted of 18 students with interdisciplinary focuses ranging from HCI/UX design to Sound Design. The scope of the project was divided into two sub-teams: researching and developing concepts for a conversational digital assistant for Ford’s future mobility experiences and a service blueprint for a Ford vehicle and bike Transportation Hub.

My team's focus was within the digital assistant concept research and ideation.

The Challenge

With the rise of conversational assistants appearing in various areas of our lives, trust is imperative for these digital agents to bring true value to users. How might we envision a multi-modal digital assistant that enhances mobile experiences and embodies trust with its riders?

Research Overview

More details coming soon...

Secondary Research Summary

Exploring Modalities of Digital Agents

During our research and exploration phase, we began to explore the different functions a digital assistant could perform for its user based on various user contexts.

As we progressed through our explorations, we considered how the overlap between tasks and functions could potentially warrant multiple assistants rather than one. To better understand the perceptions and reactions to these ideas, we embarked on the user testing phase of our concepts.

Wizard of Oz User Testing - Round 1

Key Goals:
- Collect reactions to a user being able to modify a DA's personality
- Understand perceptions of single vs. multiple DAs

Test Participants:
8 participants total, ages 19 - 31

Test Setup:
1. Facilitator will introduce themselves to the Test Participant, explaining the purpose of the test and establishing rapport.

2. Test Participant will go through sample scenario Exercise A with Teero's default personality ("Teero" is a DA played by Voice Actor A in a separate room, communicating with the test participant via speakerphone.)

3. Test Participant recollects thoughts and opinions of their interaction with the DA with brief Q&A on the personality aspect.

4. Test Participant will "modify" the personality attributes of Teero on the "Personality adjustment" interface. Voice Actor B in the other room is able to view the participant's choices to act accordingly.

5. Test Participant goes through sample scenario Exercise B.

6. Test Participant recollects thoughts and opinions of their interaction with the modified DA.

User Testing Setup - Participants

Test Participant
Speaking with a speakerphone
Interacting with a DA Personality Prototype

Two Voice Actors (Fake Digital Assistants)
Hidden in a different room, speaking to participant with a speakerphone

1 Facilitator
1 Note-taker 

Participant reading off scenario script while speaking to "Teero" on the phone (connected to voice actors in different room via speaker phone)

Sample Scenario Instructions for Participant (Exercise A)

Let’s say you are driving your own semi-autonomous vehicle in the future when they are widely available. Your vehicle includes a digital assistant to help you with your daily tasks. You are on the way to Charlotte, North Carolina.

1. Ask Tiro that you want to rest and want to get some food
[Await Response]

2. You want to go to a drive through fast food place. Ask Tiro about drive thru options.
[Await Response]

3. Tell Tiro you want Chick Fil-A.
[Await Response]

‍4. Ask Tiro if you left your thermos on the counter.
[Await Response]

5. You’d prefer to buy a new one. Ask Tiro where you can buy one in Charlotte.
[Await Response]

- Once you have arrived in Charlotte you want to explore the city before going to your hotel. You would like to know about things to see and do around the city. -

6. Ask Tiro about fun things to do in the city before you go to your hotel.
[Await Response]

7. You’d like to do something active. Ask Tiro for outdoor options.
[Await Response]

8. You’d like to go to the Park and then the food hall afterwards. Ask Tiro about local vendors that have high ratings.
[Await Response]

- You have arrived near at your city destination. -

9. Tell Tiro you want to go to the hotel now.
[Await Response]

- You have arrived at the hotel -

[Teero Speaks]

10. Tell Tiro that sounds good.
[Await Response]

Sample Scenario Instructions for Participant (Exercise B)

This time, imagine that you are flying to Montreal in a week and would like to know some basic phrases in French.

1.  Ask Tiro the best ways to learn French.
[Await Response]

2. Tell Tiro you’ll check the skills out.
[Await Response]

3. Tell Tiro to start the lesson.
[Await Response]

4. Tell Tiro you’d like to start off with the basics.
[Await Response]

User Testing Insights Summary

Final Solution

Key Persona

Details Coming soon!

Teero - Principles

User Onboarding - Personality

Teero gets to learn about the user’s preferences a little bit. Questions pertain to user’s personality and how they’d like to be treated in various contexts.

User Onboarding - Voice

The user says “Teero” out loud a few times to calibrate their specific voice.

Edit Teero's Personality

Teero is able to be edited with a variety of voice and personality markers:
Accent, voice gender, volume, brevity
Assertive vs. Timid
Serious vs. Humorous
Realistic vs. Motivational

Settings can be altered at any time for the user’s specific context.

Teero Abilities

Teero is able to install abilities from the Ford Ability Library. Abilities allow Teero to be an expert on a specific task, like prepping users for an interview or teaching them about interesting facts

Third-Party Assistant Add-ons

More details coming soon

Teero's Sample Touchpoints with the User