Prototyping with NFC Technology and Zapier
One of our clients was interested in building a game-like event experience for a big conference next year. To see what was possible with a variety of different technologies, I decided to jump in and start prototyping.
The challenge was to see how easy or difficult it would be to connect a variety of channels (e.g. chatbots, phone calls, SMS, NFC chips) to create something simple with a storyline and experience that felt novel and interesting. I the main tools I used were Zapier, NFC technology, chatbots, Heroku, and a MelonJS port of Flappy Bird (by Ellison Leão).
Here's how the prototype works (watch the video below to see it in action):
- A user walks up to a computer or device with an embedded chatbot that explains the challenge. In this scenario, the user is asked to help fix a security breach.
- Once the user engages with the chatbot, Motion.ai (the chatbot platform I'm using) calls a Zapier webhook and triggers a phone call to a pre-defined phone number.
- The user answers the phone and a bot reads pre-defined instructions that explain where to find the NFC chip that activates the security breach game.
- The user locates the NFC chip and scans it on the NFC reader to launch a pre-defined URL.
- The user plays the game (a modified version of Flappy Bird) that was launched by the NFC scan.
- Zapier—on a delay and based on the webhook from Motion.ai sent earlier—sends an SMS to a pre-defined phone number (of a sales rep on the conference floor) to let them know that a user is in the process of completing the security challenge.
Some Things that I Learned
- It's relatively straightforward to listen for events on one channel/device and trigger an action on another channel/device via services like Zapier. For example, a user responds to a chatbot on a webpage, which triggers a call to a specific phone number. Doing these things at scale for a conference experience would certainly add complexity, but there is a path to execution.
- Despite the fact that the interactions I've presented are fairly basic (i.e. receiving a phone call or interacting with a chatbot), all the technology could be wrapped in a facade to create a more interesting visual spectacle. For example, a user could enter a physical payphone booth on the conference floor and receive a phone call with instructions on how to solve a mystery from a bot based on a specific trigger (e.g. sensors placed on a door trigger a phone call when the door is closed).