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, chatbotsHeroku, 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):

  1. 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.
  2. Once the user engages with the chatbot, (the chatbot platform I'm using) calls a Zapier webhook and triggers a phone call to a pre-defined phone number.
  3. 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.
  4. The user locates the NFC chip and scans it on the NFC reader to launch a pre-defined URL.
  5. The user plays the game (a modified version of Flappy Bird) that was launched by the NFC scan.
  6. Zapier—on a delay and based on the webhook from 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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).