With the internet, “one-click ordering,” and products like the Amazon Echo, consumers now experience incredible ease and access when it comes shopping. Such ease and access ultimately have important financial implications for consumers. The Echo, for example, leverages simple voice control and consumer impulses to drive purchase decisions--the buyer can purchase anything on a whim (within reason). The price of the purchase and the financial stability of the consumer fade into the background.
This is not the first time technology and service models have appealed to consumer emotions and inclinations. In 1987, Dennis Rook wrote “marketing innovations such as credit cards, cash machines, ‘instant credit,’ 24-hour retailing, home shopping networks, and telemarketing now make it easier than ever [...] for consumers to purchase things on impulse” (p. 189). New technologies like the Echo represent a more modern--and potentially more damaging--iteration of these impulse devices. That is, through further process abstraction, they weaken consumer resilience and financial analysis by appealing to split-second impulses and emotions.
Accordingly, Amazing Panda™ is a satirical representation of the Echo. This cute and seemingly-benign device promises the user simple and intuitive purchase control. That is, like the Echo, the user need only desire a product and the product appears at their door. The Amazing Panda™ is a satirical representation in that it ignores true user intent and requires no prompt (that is, users say “Alexa” to activate the Echo).
User Control and Prompts: As described by Rose, “everyware must [...] be self-disclosing. Such disclosures ensure that you are empowered to make informed decisions as to the level of exposure you wish to entertain” (2006, p. 238). Accordingly, depending on the device and its purpose, designers should embed system prompts to facilitate appropriate user control. The Echo, for example, uses “Alexa” as a prompt to ensure intentional use. This represents a higher form of self-disclosure in that the device activates only when the user is aware of the device and wants it to activate. If the user does not prompt activation, the device remains dormant.
User Intent and Limiters: Rose also speaks of measures aimed at conserving time or face and “securing our prerogatives” (2006, p. 248). Designers should also enact any number of measures and limiters that help the user control potentially-negative impulses. Ambient devices should pursue process abstraction as a means of relieving undue mental burden; however, if this abstraction hides important considerations like financial well-being, limiters should serve to restore user judgement. The process should not be so abstract that the user does not consider the implications of their decision.