Hey Andy: A Voice-Commanded App that Helps Drivers Connect and Liven Up Their Ride

Sebastián Sassi and Adriana Campoy
January 21, 2019

Hey Andy is a 100% voice commanded app that connects people, especially while they are driving, based on shared interests through conversation topics and recorded audio messages. Users can follow topics of interest and create 20-second audio messages, almost like audible tweets. Then they can reply and respond to other users' messages, eventually getting matched up for a conversation with another user if both parties are interested.

The app successfully debuted last year at the TechCrunch conference in San Francisco, and it has gained a good amount of positive feedback on Product Hunt with several users comparing it to the way that long-haul truck drivers have used Citizens Band Radio to communicate on long drives.

The app is the brainchild of our COO, Sebastian Sassi, and its main goal is to liven up the oftentimes boring experience of driving long distances all alone and also to connect users in a meaningful way by gathering around common interests.

All by Myself

Our co-founder Sebastian built up a team to create the Hey Andy app after a trip to the United States for a conference. He flew into Miami and had to drive three and a half hours to Orlando. He wasn't used to driving such long distances and found it to be pretty monotonous. "I turned on the radio and made a few calls, but the time dragged on, and I was still feeling really bored, and very alone," says Sebastian.

It was during this trip that the idea to connect lonely drivers together came to him. "While I was driving, I realized that I was not the only one alone on the road; there were thousand of drivers around me, in the exact same situation!" He couldn't believe that with all the technology we have, there was no solution that connected drivers for a friendly conversation.

So the team did some investigating and found that according to the US Department of Transportation there are over 260 million vehicles on the road in the United States and roughly 40% of Americans are driving those cars all alone. That adds up to around 100 million lonely drivers in their cars by themselves every single day.

We decided to come up with a solution for this problem. Our first thought was that we wanted to be able to connect people for conversation. However, matching drivers up for phone calls requires users to be online at the same time, so it needed to be a little more complex than that. There needed to be a way for users to interact with the system even if no one else was online at the same time and also give people a way to interact before jumping right into a conversation.

Safety would obviously be a concern as well. The solution would have to be 100% voice commanded so that people could operate the app safely while driving. From here, the idea for recorded audio messages using a hands-free system evolved, and the Hey Andy app started taking form.

How it Works

Anyone can download the Hey Andy app in the Apple Store and open an account to get started. The app is currently only available on iPhone, but an Android version is in the works for the near future. You can sign up with an existing Facebook or Twitter account, or you can decide to create a Hey Andy account with your phone number.

Once you have created an account, you can choose some initial interests like Science, Technology, Travel, Literature, etc. that will let the system know what kinds of topics you will be interested in. Once you have an account and some selected interests, the system becomes 100% hands-free.

Hey Andy
Hey Andy

Andy leads users through a series of questions to get started, using only voice commands. It starts with basic information like age and gender and then has the user practice saying "Hey Andy", the phrase that will wake the system up anytime you want to use it.

Andy then starts suggesting conversation topics that other users have already posted or it allows you to go ahead and post your own topic by recording a 20-second audio clip. You can always listen to, reply to, and record topics at any time. If you match up with someone who is online at the same time as you, you can then choose to be connected for a conversation based on your mutual interest.

The app uses a combination of natural language processing and neural networks to figure out what the user is interested in and present the right topics at the right time. Since the system uses machine learning, the more you use it, the better it gets at understanding your likes and dislikes.

The Future is Bright

With Hey Andy, there's no limit to the number of topics you can post or how many times you can interact with other users. The team is exploring some premium features such as being able to get in touch again with other users after you've had a conversation and removing the ads that periodically play between audio messages, kind of like Spotify or Pandora.

Technology is often criticized for causing loneliness and isolation, but technology has the power and the potential to connect people as well. The Hey Andy team hopes that this app will become a part of a revolution, using technology to connect people, bring them together, and help us to find common ground.

So, the next time you're on the road and longing for some company, check out Hey Andy and liven up your drive!

"Hey Andy: A Voice-Commanded App that Helps Drivers Connect and Liven Up Their Ride" by Sebastián Sassi and Adriana Campoy is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

Photo by sophilabs.

Categorized under case studies / research & learning.

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