One of the most frustrating issues early users of the Ubi encountered was incorrect weather information. Not necessarily that the forecast was wrong, but that the location was off by a few kilometres — enough to place someone off to a different regional boundary. Apparently, saying someone is in Timbukto vs Timbuktu is almost as offensive as mispronouncing their name.
The issue arose after a layering of errors. The first was that we were using GeoIP to get location of the user. This could cause a drift of some distance. The next was that the API that we were using to get weather information might not report from that location but the closest one over.
The problem was greater when users were accessing from more rural areas. Interestingly, this is also where people had more passion about where they were located.
The solution was simple though it took some effort to implement — letting users input their location through the Ubi Portal. If this information was entered, we’d default to this location as well as state it as the user’s location in the response.
The lesson? People assign much more intelligence to virtual assistants and when they don’t perform to this level, it’s a disappointment. Designers need to make extra effort to be correct about the small stuff — like the user’s name, how it’s pronounced, what’s the user’s gender, and other personal details that the user might tell the system.