Can we Measure Happiness?

By Marais Neethling

July is an important date in every Cloud evangelist’s diary as it’s the annual AWS Cape Town Summit. And this year, Synthesis displayed our most interesting and fun demo yet at our exhibition stand.

Synthesis is an annual sponsor and exhibiter at the AWS Cape Town Summit. And this year was no different. The eagerly anticipated annual event brings together AWS partners and customers for an immersive day of discovery, learning and networking. It is well worth attending if you are ever afforded the opportunity.

As the largest AWS partner in Africa, Synthesis forms an important part of the exhibition at the event. It has become a tradition to create an intriguing software demo for our stand. The purpose of the demo is partly to entice attendees to our stand and partly to show off the advanced AWS cloud capabilities and what we can achieve within a short space of time leveraging AWS.

Over the years we’ve had demos such as CoffeeAlexa, a voice activated chat bot that takes coffee orders from attendees at our stand. Trained baristas would then prepare the coffee after you’ve placed your order with Alexa.

We also had the AWS DeepLens demo where we showed our machine learning capability and inference at the edge that DeepLens brings to an organisation’s physical sites. Using AWS DeepLens, you can implement scene analysis, identify people and objects in the scene, recognise individuals, perform crowd analytics and that is just the start of what we did for the demo.

What makes for a good demo at an event like the Summit? Not any old piece of software, no matter how brilliant it might be, is suitable for demoing at an exhibition stand. This year we used Machine Learning but that was not the main attraction! It was the supporting act.

A good demo should be visually pleasing and intriguing when it is displayed on the screen at the stand. The interaction should be simple and easy to understand. There isn’t a lot of time either, attendees are busy and want to visit as many stands as possible and you want to maximise the number of attendees that visit your stand. You have approximately 20 seconds to wow the delegate.

Focusing on the user experience is a key part of the demo, making it a slick as possible to delight your players or viewers. And lastly, in our experience, the demo serves as a great conversation starter. Make sure you highlight some interesting technology you used or have a story to tell about your demo. People love the story and appreciate the demo even more when they know how the demo idea and tech came together.

The theme for this year’s demo was happiness. We wanted attendees to come to our stand and be amused and delighted and leave with a positive feeling. What is better than associating Synthesis with happiness? We started exploring ideas and then got together and threw around even more ideas that met the above criteria. We rated the pros and cons of each and debated the merits. Eventually one of our colleagues suggested a game based on how happy you are perceived to be. It would use AWS Rekognition to score your smile when you are on front of a camera. And so, the Happiness Project was born.

We decided on a chat-bot style sign-up experience as filling in forms is getting so old. When you visit the sign-up URL on your phone, you are greeted with a splash screen that explains the details and shows the disclaimers. Then when you are ready, you interact with the registration bot in 3 easy steps. We don’t want to make the sign-up process tedious and lose potential players right there on the first step. Once you have completed the registration on your phone, you will be issued a unique QR code which you can then use to active the game at our stand.

Attendees simply needed to walk up to the stand and hold their QR code in front of the camera. The game then started, and participants had 10-15 seconds to convince the AI that they were happy. The idea is to push that happiness bar on the side to the highest score possible. That’s it, your name appeared on the leader board feed!

Implementing this demo as a serverless application on AWS was a pleasure. In total we spent around 100 man-hours to get the following components up and running and developed

  • PWA app with the chat bot interface,
  • the Lex powered chat bot,
  • the player board with face detection and happiness scoring

The immense power of the AWS cloud enabled us to build this tech demo in a short space of time with no infrastructure to maintain. In the past, putting together the components and services for this demo would’ve take 3 times as long. And because it is based on a serverless architecture, it can scale effortlessly without any more effort on our side.

The results were sensational. Users loved the competitive fun nature of the demo and if they weren’t happy before they played they were certainly smiling after.

For more information on our innovation work and to connect with Marais, follow him on LinkedIn.

 

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