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Olympics x Amazon

Tasked with consulting with DiscoveryEurosport to advise them on UX and UI opportunities within Voice Forward multimodal and Smart TV App projects.

Client: DiscoveryEurosport x Amazon
Website: amazon.co.uk
Date: April 6, 2020
Services: System Research & Exploration for Amazon Alexa, Multimodal UX Design for Voice and Screen.

Two new multimodal digital assistant
experience from Eurosport & Amazon

Having previously designed Voice, TV and Mobile App projects. I was asked to join Eurosport EMEA to lead the their Connected Devices pillar has they were looking to rethink and expand their Smart TV application and Conversational strategy.

I had explored in depth in the first party and multi-lingual differences of The Assistant so was uniquely situated at advising the creation of third-party actions having also previously worked on Alexa skills.

Being offered the chance to work on a Amazon-funded project with both the assistant of the wider Discovery Network, Eurosport and Amazon was a real opportunity that I was very looking forward to embracing. Working in a small team integrated into the the UX Team, Product Team and Editorial Team we sat down and didn’t just design an experiment but designed commercial products the wider user base for both Smart TV and Alexa ASK that could both be utilised for voice-first and multimodal skill.

The project, which was a major partnership between Amazon and DiscoveryEurosport was divided into two parts,

Firstly, being part of the wider design team who’s aim is to bring an ommi-channel approach to bring the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to Eurosport. My part would be to lead the “Connected Devices” pillar of work to integrate with Native and Web pillars

Secondarily, was too again to work with Amazon to bring to Live premium content to the Echo Show devices and furthermore bring In-App Purchasing to the Eurosport Fire TV devices plus other smaller IxD improvements.

ESP1: The Olympics

I was primarily brought in because of my conversational design experience and platform thinking for Google Assistant and Alexa. DiscoveryEurosport in partnership with Amazon’s aim was to bring a Omni-channel experience to Eurosport users. Where I cam in was the handle the Echo Platform, which comprises of Smart Speakers, SmartDisplays and SmartTV’s to enable users to watch the Daily Highlight show and keep up with where each country medal total plus bring Athlete key information at moment nice by just asking Alexa, tell me about Usain Bolt.

Coupled with that I was asked to take control and design the Olympics Eurosport experience. This entitled mainly a re-skin of current content but also introducing a New Profile idea to switch between different content profiles. Such as Eurosport and Olympic content.

Since DiscoveryEurosport was very new to the Voice space, before Starting any Custom skills. My aim was to educate them on the system, terms, philosophy of Voice-fist platforms,

The different Voice modes and Skill types were particularly difficult to explain since for the enduser Alexa sounds, looks and feels all. After organising Workshops to intro the team could we start exploring ideas and possible conversations and functionality.

Many conversations and ideations sessions started on whiteboards, paper and pens. Explaining how turn really works, trying to get them to learn about Audio design and the power of words, plus simple rules to create more engaging audio experiences. At all times I tried to get Editorial to partake in the idea sessions, which really helped Product understand the content. We followed the “How Might We” method, and Crazy 8 to bring ideas out.  Filling I fleshed out the key functionality that would answer the brief that I was set out. 

Shaping the Idea and Situational design methodology

From the very being, due to the nature of the platform, I knew there would be need for changes to the design and concept. This is why I was constant contact with my devs in Poland, even flying out there once a month to make sure we could work together and over come any limitations or particularities of the Echo platforms, such as APL not support custom fonts. Which meant I had revise the visuals, asking myself where was he balance of brand elements such as NeoTokyo font versus the added complexity it would add for the developers. 

Once, I had started to outline the structure, I wanted to start designing the conversational dialog. Meaning I had to write to the copy for the skill plus hearing how it sounds. I used a combination. Once I created these conversations I quickly starting putting into Voiceflow to outline the reprompts and feel how the flow.

A key area I focused on was the conversation design and Voice SSML design. This has always been area for to improve in since I come from a UI/UX design learning to design copy and optimise it for Alexa’s voice was a great focus of mine.

This lead to focusing a lot of attention on the APL side of skill, since this was skill a mainly around Olympic updates in video and written form, I wanted to show what APL 1.3 was really capable of doing. Working closely with the Devs in Poland and going there 1 once a month I made sure that we both explored how to really push the ASK APL aspect of this skill.

Once I had created the designs for the Echo Show devices I wanted to focus on the idea that a Custom skill could be opened on a TV. This lead me to realise that just like a TV can be controlled with a remote so could a ASK skill. So with my dev’s help I enabled to use of remotes within the skill so a user could speak, tap or use their remote to navigate the skill.

ESP2: VSK & MediaSession API

From the very start, when looking at the high level requirements I saw that a custom skill wouldn’t be able to do everything, even if I wanted and tried to explore how to bing in live TV content into a Custom skill. Ultimately what stoped me was the understanding that live tv content relies on Catalog Ingestion on Amazon’s side and it clearly says that this can not be with Custom skill.

This lead me to idea that I would have to split the requirements into two Skills. Firstly as mentioned above an Olympic custom ASK skill with content only referring to that and second Eurosport Player VSK skill which would allow to have live content being displayed.

This lead to the two understand how MediaSession API works and is a subset of the the VSK skill type to control the Media Player only, see below (right). Then how to design a VSK below (left). You can read in more detail how what is VSK is here in my article and here on the Amazon Blog

ESP3: IAP for FireOS

I was primarily brought in because of my conversational design experience and platform thinking for Google Assistant and Alexa. DiscoveryEurosport in partnership with Amazon’s aim was to bring a Omni-channel experience to Eurosport users. Where I cam in was the handle the Echo Platform, which comprises of Smart Speakers, SmartDisplays and SmartTV’s to enable users to watch the Daily Highlight show and keep up with where each country medal total plus bring Athlete key information at moment nice by just asking Alexa, tell me about Usain Bolt.

Coupled with that I was asked to take control and design the Olympics Eurosport experience. This entitled mainly a re-skin of current content but also introducing a New Profile idea to switch between different content profiles. Such as Eurosport and Olympic content.

Since DiscoveryEurosport was very new to the Voice space, before Starting any Custom skills. My aim was to educate them on the system, terms, philosophy of Voice-fist platforms,

The different Voice modes and Skill types were particularly difficult to explain since for the enduser Alexa sounds, looks and feels all. After organising Workshops to intro the team could we start exploring ideas and possible conversations and functionality.

Many conversations and ideations sessions started on whiteboards, paper and pens. Explaining how turn really works, trying to get them to learn about Audio design and the power of words, plus simple rules to create more engaging audio experiences. At all times I tried to get Editorial to partake in the idea sessions, which really helped Product understand the content. We followed the “How Might We” method, and Crazy 8 to bring ideas out.  Filling I fleshed out the key functionality that would answer the brief that I was set out.

Many conversations and ideations sessions started on whiteboards, paper and pens. Explaining how turn really works, trying to get them to learn about Audio design and the power of words, plus simple rules to create more engaging audio experiences. At all times I tried to get Editorial to partake in the idea sessions, which really helped Product understand the content. We followed the “How Might We” method, and Crazy 8 to bring ideas out.  Filling I fleshed out the key functionality that would answer the brief that I was set out.