Wahi (Web Automated Human Interaction)
Wahi (Web Automated Human Interaction) is a technology from Wahi Media, Inc. for simulating two-way conversation on the web. Conversations branch, based on the user's responses, and information about the audience is collected and reported in real time, allowing the wahi designer to hear and understand how viewers respond to the message.
- 1 Characteristics
- 2 History
- 3 Software
- 4 Application
- 5 Variations
- 6 Criticisms
- 7 Intellectual Property
- 8 See also
- 9 References
While experiencing Wahi, users are asked questions (open-ended and multiple choice). Responses are summarized and displayed in aggregate format (accessible only to the Wahi creator), typically in the form of histograms, allowing for both qualitative data and quantitative data analysis of user responses for selected time periods. Respondent identity is confidential.
Wahi enables market segmentation by asking different questions of different respondents - allowing for deeper probing and a richer understanding of each viewer. (Questions can be nested within responses to other questions.) Data collection and reporting are provided in real-time, allowing the Wahi creator to immediately learn what is on the minds of a mass audience (and respond appropriately to each viewer). The creator can thus learn about a user's attitudes, opinions, knowledge, insights, perceptions, etc.
As in a normal human conversation, the topic changes during each Wahi, depending on the responses of the user. For example, users can be asked whether they agree or disagree with the speaker and depending on the response, different messages, speakers and questions can be presented to the viewer. Branching relies on careful definition of target audience and market segmentation.
Scripted and Prerecorded Video
The conversation to be delivered to the viewer is designed to feel spontaneous and self-driven, and yet it is completely controlled by the creator of that Wahi. Audience segmentation and the complex path of potential conversation are designed and scripted to meet the informational and entertainment needs of each viewer while meeting the communication and behavioral objectives of the Wahi creator.
Psychological Approaches to Developing Rapport and Trust with the User
Careful attention is paid to the development of the viewer's trust (social sciences). Techniques to develop rapport and retain viewer interest include exposing the viewer to speakers that resemble them (in gender and race, for example) as well as ideas or opinions with which they are likely to agree or relate to. As with any human conversation, speakers can employ basic techniques to make the conversation interesting and relevant to the user. Examples include requesting for permission to ask questions, beginning with relatively shallow or impersonal questions before delving more deeply, and treating the user with respect and dignity. Wahi also allows for non-verbal communication cues, (for example, smiling or nodding) to develop rapport with the viewer.
Maintaining Viewer Attention
The medium is designed to grab and hold the attention of viewers by periodically asking them questions (as most speakers would do in a one-on-one conversation). The theory is that by asking questions the viewer can focus the user's attention (and successfully compete with divided attention) and retain this attention over a period of time (combating short attention spans).
An American psychologist, Dr. Glenn Hallam, developed the original concept of Wahi in 2006. Originally intended as a way for researchers to learn about the attitudes, knowledge and opinions of people (while holding the attention of the viewer), Wahi has gained some traction as a generalizable communication technology, allowing communicators to have pre-scripted, one-on-one conversations with simultaneous users through the web.
Core concepts for Wahi originated in counseling psychology. In Wahis designed to change attitudes or behavior, extensive use is made of "Motivational Interviewing" or the process of asking users about why they engage in certain behaviors (for example what they like about smoking) before attempting to change attitudes or behavior.
Drawing from the Transtheoretical model of behavior change, the branching capability of Wahi is often used to assess the individual's level of readiness for change (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, termination) and then deliver information and behavioral strategies appropriate for each user.
Early adopters used Wahi to communicate with the public about safety and health issues. Examples include the State of Virginia (http://www.virginiagangstory.com), Atlanta Police Department (http://atlantagangstory.com), and Tampa Police Department (http://www.tampabaygangs.com), as well as health topics, most notably smoking cessation (http://theuglytruth.org), teen safety (http://www.TeenTruth.org) and STD prevention.
Hallam studied psychology under the American social psychologists Philip Zimbardo and Scott Plous at Stanford University in the early 1980s. Hallam later obtained a Doctorate from the University of Minnesota under Marvin Dunnette, a pioneer in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Dr. Hallam is also a long-time collaborator with David P. Campbell, co-author of the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory.
Hallam formed Mega-Fi, Inc. in 2006 to explore applications of Wahi. The name of the company was changed to Wahi Media in 2008.
Wahis are viewed with Adobe Flash player and are driven by a patent-pending platform from Wahi Media, Inc.
As a communication technology, Wahi has the potential for widespread application. Wahi is claimed to be useful in any situation in which one-on-one communication can be pre-planned and may be useful when the communicator desires real-time information about the attitudes, knowledge and opinions of a greater audience. Current applications are most notably found in prevention and awareness initiatives, training, customer satisfaction, and broad reaching messages, such as corporate branding, organizational culture development, and executive communications.
Wahis come in many forms and vary along several simple dimensions:
Real People/Stories vs. Scripted Acting
Wahis featuring real people and their stories can feel more authentic but lack the polish of actors working with scripts. Featuring real people and stories can be essential when the viewer already has personal experience with the topic (for example, when talking with HIV-positive viewers about HIV).
Entertainment vs. Information
Wahis that are entertaining help to maintain the viewer's attention but are less efficient in delivering information. In general, more entertainment is needed for audiences that have lower initial motivation to view the Wahi. For example, Wahis can begin to resemble virtual games when designed to engage and entertain youth.
Wahis can take the viewer down a linear path (to control what the viewer sees) or give the user more freedom to choose their path. In general, more navigational freedom is desirable for audiences that have lower initial motivation to engage in the Wahi. A more linear approach is appropriate when the Wahi designers wishes to ensure that the viewer received and understood each part of the message (for example, an insurance company delivering a message about driving safety to their customers).
High Viewer Motivation vs. Low Viewer Motivation
If the audience is highly motivated or required to view the Wahi, they(obviously)are more likely to engage in the Wahi and remain focused over the course of the simulated discussion (for example, hospital patients who wish to learn more about their condition and treatment.) Low motivation viewers typically require a higher level of entertainment and greater navigational freedom to remain engaged.
Because Wahis are generally delivered as flash video, viewers need a Flash player and high-speed internet access to view them. As with any "conversation," the effectiveness of Wahi in retaining attention and collecting viewer insights depends on the attractiveness of the topic and speaker - design and scripting are crucial. Wahi is likely to be most popular among users who are motivated to have the conversation - if they have a problem or need that can be addressed, or by users who are asked to complete Wahi as part of a training program or focus group.
If Wahis are deployed on a public website, the sample characteristics are unlikely to be representative of the general population - the data collected are generally used for qualitative analysis and developing hypotheses rather than reaching definitive conclusions. However, Wahis can also be directed to a specific target population (members of a focus group) and Wahis are likely to reach some people who otherwise would not want to interact with an interviewer or researcher.
Wahi Media, Inc. filed for a U.S. registered trademark for "Wahi" in March 2009.