Ollie | Smart Voice Assistant for Pittsburgh Regional Transit
Ollie is a conversational assistant for a local public transportation agency known as Pittsburgh Regional Transit. As a voice assistant, it provides an intuitive one-stop solution for all inquiries related to bus operation. Through dynamic and interactive engagement, Ollie collaborates with the riders to connect currently segmented public transportation experience to become holistic and comprehensive. Ollie's approachable and friendly attitude aims to keep riders informed during their trips anywhere, any time.
As a companion of overall Pittsburgh Regional Transit experience, Ollie collaborates with the riders in two different areas: mobile device and interactive screen at the bus stop. The overall mobile interface includes interactive and conversational components for the passengers to get assistance in verbal and non-verbal ways. Re-utilizing the experience beyond mobile devices, Ollie also engages with the users at the bus stop through interactive screens to provide the information needed for facilitating their experience using Pittsburgh Regional Transit's services.
Pittsburgh's public transportation system, known as Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT), has had shortage in services over the past several years in response to worker shortage problems because of the COVID 19 pandemic. As a result of worker and service shortage, there has been an increase in customer complaints, addressing the need for technology to enhance the current experience in using PRT's services. The current PRT experience is complex and segmented, especially due to inefficiency in communicating bus operation status, information unavailability, and lack of assistance presence. As the majority of the population is dependent on its services for traveling in and around Pittsburgh, it is crucial to fill in the gaps in services by incorporating conversational assistant as part of its refined experience.
Before going in depth with reimagining the PRT experience, we questioned why implementation of conversational AI would be important as part of improving public transportation services. In order to clearly depict our rationality behind this question, our team investigated current technological experiences that are provided as part of their services in two different areas: mobile app and bus stop.
Ready2Ride is an app that PRT originally implemented which allows the passengers to purchase bus fares and receive help from the staff of PRT for additional assistance. Unfortunately, there are some bugs and complexity in how to use Ready2Ride, so a lot of people do not use the app to purchase bus fares and instead depend more on bus fare kiosks.
Another existing condition that we looked into is the bus stop. Originally there was an interactive screen, but now it is covered as a poster with QR Code. Our team thought that this was an opportunity to reutilize the interactive screen as part of redesigned PRT experience through voice assistance because our team felt the need to implement an accessible tool for people to use at the bus stop.
After looking into existing conditions of PRT's operation, our team conducted several interviews with people who currently use public transportation in Pittsburgh on a daily basis. Through investigation of existing PRT experience and interview with current PRT users, we were able to identify four main consequences in the current experience:
• Inefficient communication
• Complex progress of purchasing bus fare
• Information unavailability
• Lack of assistance presence
Reflecting upon what we have researched, our team identified pain points when using public transportation in Pittsburgh. In order to resolve these issues, we were determined to achieve three main aspects as goals of this project:
• Making the passengers feel safe and secured
• Providing informative experiences through live updates and information about the local area
• Offering accessibility assistance, which aims to provide passengers with getting assistance through different languages, getting on the bus, and more
We aim to implement conversational assistant to enhance the experience not only for commuters who are using PRT's services but also for bus drivers who are operating PRT Services bus drivers as well.
As our next step, our team questioned how to design the voice assistant by thinking about the kinds of characteristics and tone of voice that would be most appropriate to align the goals of this project. In order to facilitate the process of connecting the users and our intelligent agent as part of refined PRT experience, we defined characteristics of the voice assistant to be reliable, approachable, and amicable.
After defining Ollie's characteristics and personalities, it was crucial for our team to define non-verbal ways of communication through motion design. During the process of developing the ideal user journey, our team put significance in implementing a feature that allows the users to mute Ollie's voice when needed; we thought that this was crucial especially because the users were using Ollie mainly in public space.
In order to think about how to integrate Ollie's features into a redesigned interface, our team matched each motion state into its appropriate scenarios. During this process, our team integrated Ollie in two ways: Ollie initiating conversation/activation through notification and Ollie being activated by the user. Having these directions helped our team to set directions for how conversation flow between Ollie and users would be structured and what kinds of patterns would be commonly seen when the users are receiving assistance from Ollie. The process of discovering these patterns allowed us to identify general features that Ollie would have when it is both in inactive and active status.
Through this process, we were able to reimagine Pittsburgh's public transportation experience by creating Ollie, a conversational assistant that provides an intuitive one-stop solution for all inquiries related to bus operation. Through dynamic and interactive engagement, Ollie collaborates with the users to connect currently segmented public transportation experience to become holistic and comprehensive. Ollie's approachable and friendly attitude aims to make information accessible and keep users informed during their trips anywhere, any time. Introducing Ollie as part of Pittsburgh's public transportation experience, we hope to increase the rate of public transportation usage in Pittsburgh and create delightful moments of traveling by public transportation.