Photo Matan Segev
Last week we spoke of new product ideas that come from everyday irritations and clanging defects in existing products. There were so many I had to split them into a 2-part miniseries.
This week, let’s look at the future of artificial intelligence, and the worst corporate mobster racket I can think of.
A Navigation App That Knows What A Roundabout Is
The whole point of artificial intelligence is to mimic the fuzzy complexity of human thinking and speech. So you can relate to it on a human level, rather than leaving you lost in a binary flow-chart maze.
I suspect usable AI is further away than its boosters suggest. The reason is nicely summed up in one line from your trusty Google Maps tour guide:
“Take the second exit from the roundabout onto (the street you’re already on)”
A line literally no human driver on the planet has ever said approaching a basic crossroads roundabout. A human might say: go straight ahead. But more likely: THEY WOULD SAY NOTHING.
The Google Maps approach is basically the same as announcing the name of every cross-street you drive past.
And Google is meant to be the global leader in AI. They might be able to book you a haircut, yet their map product turns the simplest trip into a relentless kind of audio waterboarding. Drive in a roundabout-y area, and whatever you’re listening to in the car (or your pleasant car silence) gets interrupted with the same robotic line every minute or so until madness sets in.
Small kids asking if we’re there yet are a blissful meditation soundtrack next to Google Map woman.
And yes, I know there are fewer roundabouts in California. That’s a big part of the irritation, because it could be fixed so simply. How about your genius mapping AI uses YOUR OWN PRODUCT to recognise what country each driver is in?
And maybe the people briefing the coders give them the news that not everywhere in the world is exactly the same as Mountain View CA?
This is a global, decade-old product. How can UX even be a job title at Google if nobody has noticed what a substandard experience this is?
Venue-Owned Ticketing System
Of all the online shopping experiences that make you want to call in a drone strike on the corporate mobsters responsible, number one is Big Ticketing fees – the savage final-screen fleecing you get when you buy concert tickets. You know the brands I’m talking about.
It’s like evil prankster scriptwriters have come up with a system designed to make customers angrier with each escalating detail. It isn’t enough that you pay an extra, undeclared-up-front $8.50 for the privilege of … receiving a barcode.
They ratchet up the annoyance by offering you a choice of posted ticket, print-your-own PDF, or get a barcode. Is getting the barcode or printing your own any cheaper NO OF COURSE IT FUCKING ISN’T, they’re all $8.50.
Some of them go for gold in the Irritation Olympics by calling it a Convenience Fee, rather than say Extortion Payment.
There’s the ongoing suspicion that they sell tons of seats at high demand events to scalpers, so they can get a second slice of the action on their own resale sites.
Finally – and this is the bit lots of concertgoers don’t know – unless you un-tick the box, they sell your email details to other corporate spammers. It’s in the fine print you didn’t read:
These people are Satan.
Their whole service is based around 1970s deals and technology, and there’s no need for it any more. I know there are smaller competing ticket agencies now, but if every online t-shirt shop can have its own checkout, why can’t venues send their own barcode using 2018 tech?
Tell people the up-front price up so you don’t end the transaction on such a sour note. I’d be more than happy to see the extra money go to artists or venues rather than the ticketing racketeers.
Parking Meters You Can Read
Why is it that parking meters use screen technology straight out of a 1996 Game Boy?
I’m sure they were quite readable when they tested them in the council offices. Who could have predicted they might end up being used outdoors in direct sunlight, where cars are, making the screen image totally invisible?
Why would you have such a clear obstacle to people giving you torrents of money?
The Daylight-Viewable Parking Meter Corporation is a major opportunity around the world, and gives manufacturers something to do with last year’s phone screens.
What Can We Learn From This?
OK you’re probably not going to create your own navigation app to take down Google, or start making parking meters.
The point is that every product category has these obvious bugs. Sometimes it needs an outsider to actually notice them, because everyone inside the business has been breathing their own exhaust fumes and can’t see it.
The more you put yourself in the shoes of the customer, and use the product yourself, the more opportunities are just sitting there saying: come on in and build yourself a successful business that fixes something obvious.
Want more strange, ranty advice? Subscribe to the weekly email of business advice that is more fun to read on public transport than conventional motivators. Unlike Big Ticketing, I’ll only ever send you one email story a week and I will never let anyone else near your details. I’ll never offer you a chance to buy Nickelback tickets either. I believe that’s known as a win/win.