Inspiration

House Tracker was inspired from the frustration at feeling like we were the only ones doing chores in our respective households! We then carried out user research to check this was a problem for other people too. The research helped us take a trip down memory lane, as we spoke to many families & households who all had a way of keeping track of their chores, be it through whiteboards on the fridge or mobile apps.

House Tracker lets you track chores by voice. We've added a gamification element, so you win 1 point every time you log a chore, to incentivise people to be top of their household leaderboard each week! Recording that you did the dishes, or vacuumed the floor, through a screen or by writing isn't very efficient. On mobile you have to have your phone on you, then open the app, find your chore, then click it. We felt that saying the command "tell house tracker I did the dishes" was a much faster and convenient way of recording that you did your bit toward household cleanliness. And with House Tracker you can log it by voice as you are doing the chore, even if it means your hands are tied up. Additionally, if there is a household heated discussion over who last did the dishes, rather than getting a mobile app out, you can simply say "Alexa, ask house tracker who last did the dishes?" or "Alexa, ask house tracker for this week's stats?", which settles the discussion more quickly than it started!

What it does

House Tracker lets you track chores by voice. We've added a gamification element, so you win 1 point every time you log a chore, to incentivise people to be top of their household leaderboard each week!

"Alexa, tell House Tracker I did the dishes" and "Alexa, tell House Tracker Jess did the dishes"

You can also find out the week's stats, and also who did what chore last! Example interactions are:

"Alexa, ask house tracker for this week's stats" and "Alexa, ask house tracker who last did the dishes?"

Members of the household can then view stats on their Echo Show or Spot. If you choose to account link, you can also see the leaderboard and a more detailed activity log on the House Tracker dashboard, available at www.askhousetracker.com.

How I built it

House Tracker has 2 main components. The Alexa Skill and the Web App Dashboard.

The Alexa Skill is built on AWS Lambda using NodeJS and the Jovo Framework. The Voice Interaction Model was designed in a such a way that each chore is a separate Slot Value. We went for this approach as we wanted to ensure both accuracy of chore recognition but also distinction between different chores that may be similar in the way they sound. For example “Load the Dishwasher” vs. “Empty the Dishwasher”

The Web App is built using React, and allows user to see various aggregated views of the chores their household has logged over time.

Challenges I ran into

Challenge 1: Getting people to use it! Doing chores isn't fun, and so we were very conscious of people not wanting to use the app, or simply forgetting to, perhaps in haste to want to get the chore over and done with it, which is what we learned when we ran a focus group with an early prototype. To overcome this challenge, we decided to gamify the experience in 2 ways:

  1. Giving people encouraging or funny feedback when they record a chore. For example "Nice one! That's your 3rd chore this week" or "Nice one, you're ahead, Oscar hasn't done any yet!"
  2. By introducing a household leaderboard. So 1 chore = 1 point. Families / household members would then be incentivised to complete chores so they would be top of the leaderboard. Parents also told us they would use the leaderboard as a way of measuring who deserves some extra pocket money that week.

Challenge 2: Visual vs. Voice UI Design One of the design challenges was understanding how to onboard household members. We felt that setting this up on 1st use of the skill all at once would be too off-putting, as the conversation would have a lot of turns in it and we were concerned users would get bored and not use the skill again. We looked into making the user set up their household visually through a webpage before they used the skill, but again we felt this would put people off. We realised we wanted someone to be able to log a chore in the first voice interaction they had, and so we needed to mask the setup process. In the end we did this in the following way:

We prompt users to log a chore immediately and say: "Alexa, tell house tracker Jess did a chore" --> if Jess is a new name, we verify it by voice and say "Hey! Look like we haven't met before, I heard Jess, is that right?" if it is, we say "Great, I'll remember you for next time!" and then we log the chore Jess just did --> If Jess is a name we've already saved, we log the chore directly But to edit or remove a name , we prompt users to account link, after which they are taken to a webpage where they can add/edit/delete names, and see the leaderboard.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

We had this idea quite late on, so it was great to see us design, test and build it in just 3 weeks. We're also super happy it's a skill that can be enjoyed by everyone in the house hold or family!

What I learned

When working with lists of phrases in an Alexa Skill, for example chores, it’s important to store the different forms in which they might be spoken, such as verbs or in the past tense. For example the chore “Do The Dishes” needs to be displayed as it is written on the web dashboard, but if a user says: “Alexa, ask House Tracker who last did the dishes”. The response would be “Oscar last did the dishes on Thursday at 9pm” - in this case Alexa is reading the past tense version of the chore.

What's next for House Tracker

  1. Introducing more chores & a calendar view As well as expanding the list of chores, we’d like to introduce a calendar view to www.askhousetracker.com. So households would be able to assign chores, including date they should be completed, to each person. Example interactions would be: “Alexa, ask house tracker what chores Josh needs to do today?” → Tonight, Josh is in charge of making sure the kitchen is tidy after dinner “Alexa, ask house tracker who hasn’t done their chores?” → Josh missed his chore “cleaning the kitchen” last night, and it looks like Holly didn’t clean the bathroom on Sunday “Alexa, ask house tracker for tomorrow’s schedule?” → Tomorrow, Sam needs to make sure he mops the floor, and Holly needs to empty the dishwasher

  2. Making it Social We'd also love to expand the leaderboard feature so it has even more of a social element to it. We'd make it so that households can compete against each other. For example the household owner be able to invite other amazon accounts to be part of their leaderboard. So families across states could compete again each other, or perhaps friendly neighbours living nearby one another. Let the household battles commence.

  3. Introducing household expenses As well as expanding the list of supported chores, we’d like to expand the functionality so households could track expenses. For example, 4 friends sharing a flat together would be able to use it to track who spent what. Example interactions would be: “Alexa, tell house tracker Josh spent 10 dollars on cleaning stuff” ---> Thanks Josh, I’ve noted you spent 10 dollars on cleaning stuff “Alexa, ask house tracker for this month’s spend” → So far this month, the house has spent 50 dollars. I’ve calculated that Holly owes Josh 3 dollars 75, that Sam owes Holly 12.75 and than Matt owes everyone 5 dollars. “Alexa, ask house tracker who owes Josh money?” → It looks like Holly is the only one that owes Josh money, she owes him 3 dollars 75 “Alexa, tell House Tracker that Holly just paid Josh 5 dollars” → thanks to Holly, I’ve made a note of that

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