Care home voice assistant

We helped Elifar create an innovative new way for tenants of their brand new Care Home to book services and interact with the Care home manager.

Elifar approached First Option Software with an exciting idea to lead the care home industry by introducing voice assisted devices to their care homes.

Elifar were building a brand new, state of the art, care home for the elderly at Bordon in Hampshire. The purpose-built facility comprises a hydrotherapy pool, treatment room and community space in addition to its core care services. What sets this new facility apart is the 10 independent living apartments that share the same site. Named “The Firefly Club”, the new residents would live independently, while being able to take advantage of the amenities on site.

Inspired by a recent conference about how voice assistants would revolutionise the care sector, Elifar were keen to make use of this emerging technology and set out to commission this project.

When we first met with Elifar, we shared their vision for a more accessible system via a voice assistant. For tech novices, a verbal interaction is a far more natural interface than touching a screen. With this, we began to investigate the merits of the available voice assistants on the market.

After researching the available options of Apple’s HomePod, Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, we ultimately chose to use Alexa. At the time, it had the greatest level of consumer awareness and offered the largest choice of hardware. With this, we recommended that instead of just voice interaction, we create an Alexa skill that works on the Amazon Echo Show, allowing us to take advantage of its large screen for visual feedback.

“We were really excited by the opportunity to introduce this new technology into our care homes.

We felt that First Option Software understood exactly what we were trying to achieve and they brought new ideas to the table.”

Designing a voice user interface

It’s always exciting to work on something that’s never been done before but here, we had to be mindful that this solution worked for all users. While other care homes are still using whiteboards and bulletins, the use of a smart assistant could revolutionise a tenant’s user experience but it had to be easy to use.

The key requirement for this project was to provide access to amenities, whilst allowing residents to keep their independence. To ensure we delivered on this, we set out to consider the user experience across a number of use cases.

“Alexa, what do I say?”

Unlike in most of our projects, we had a very specific user demographic, which enabled us to target our approach to best suit them.

While a voice user interface is far more natural to novice users than a touch screen or joystick, it’s common for misinterpretation or misunderstanding by the voice assistant to cause things to go wrong. Ultimately a voice assistant is listening for a command, followed by some detail in relation to that command. In theory, it shouldn’t matter how you phrase that command, so long as the trigger words are in there.

When it comes to novice users interacting with a voice assistant, it’s likely for their expectations to be higher than the capability of the technology. Generally, Alexa skills put the onus on the user to know what commands they should ask and how to phrase it. We wanted to ensure that the voice assistant did the leg work, allowing Elifar’s residents to communicate with ease.

Firstly, we addressed the pace of the interaction. With the right triggers, voice assistants are capable of understanding and responding to complicated requests but with this, brings the potential for error. Instead, we designed the VUI (voice user interface) to build up a single request from multiple commands. This way, the voice assistant leads the user through the process, asking simple questions which require logical responses.

The result is an interaction which takes longer to complete but which has less likelihood of failure. We drew upon our experience of designing an app for the elderly, which taught us that consistent, repetitive interactions are beneficial to understanding and retention.

Elifar used the latest advances in voice interaction technology to stand out from the crowd. How could you use software to stand out against your competitors?

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