Accenture Labs Gets In Your Head10:32 AM EST Thu. Jan. 10, 2008
Say you went on a sales call to a client and, during the interaction, heard a voice telling you whether you were dominating the conversation, being too pushy or not assertive enough. Sounds crazy? Or like an untapped superpower? In reality, it's the Personal Performance Coach under development by Accenture's research group.
Research in Human-Computer Interaction at the Accenture Technology Labs in Palo Alto, Calif., has developed a personal feedback device that enables users to learn what their current behaviors are, and then modify or adapt them to obtain desired results. Accenture's Personal Performance Coach, which is in the prototype stage, is a mobile device that uses two pieces of hardware -- a mobile phone and a new generation of wearable sensors including GPS and digital bio sensors "- and software that transforms the phone into a coach. The user wears a wireless head set with a cell phone that serves as the service delivery channel.
"We're taking common technologies and turning them into something more," says Accenture Labs' developer Dana Le. "I like to say these are devices that give you 'superhuman powers.' For example, they record, so they can give you a perfect memory. They can act as an angel on your shoulder and improve your capabilities."
For example, the device will sense whether a user is not listening enough, or is not exhibiting otherwise good conversational behaviors during a sales call. It might send a voice prompt to the earpiece: "Slow down," or, "Speak up."
Not only can Accenture Labs' devices help improve workplace performance through verbal prompts during discussions, but they can also sense the environment a user is in, and suggest alternative behaviors. For example, they can sense WiFi networks.
"The device can sense I am in our research conference room with a coworker, for example. It assumes we are having a meeting, and can build on that," said Le. "Or, say it senses you are in the coffee room, by the snack machine. You can program it to remind you of your goal to lose five pounds. When you walk by the vending machine, it can prompt you to go to the fruit bowl instead."
Le noted that some might feel this is like "Big Brother," but added that the user programs the device. Accenture labs shows the various prototypes of devices they've created to clients, who sometimes come up with different uses for them.
"Perhaps, this device is more of a training tool," said Le. "It may be useful for preparing someone in a way in which they've actually gone through the actions, getting feedback the entire time."