The Work

Xfinity Bark-Activated Vending Machine

Generating buzz—technically, barks—for the Secret Life of Pets 2

For the launch of The Secret Life of Pets 2, Comcast and animation powerhouse Illumination Entertainment teamed up to generate some buzz—well, technically, barks. Xfinity is all about owning the living room, but this campaign was about getting people into the theater. How? Via the Xfinity Voice Remote—a voice-activated remote control that let customers find local theatres and movie times, and purchase tickets to The Secret Life of Pets 2, by simply saying, “get Pets tickets” into the Voice Remote.

To excite consumers about the Voice Remote and get the up and going to the movies, instead of binging on their couch, Xfinity launched an experiential campaign, focused on social engagement. The main component? A bark-activated vending machine that promoted both the Secret Life of Pets 2 and the concept of voice-activated ordering, mimicking the capabilities of customers' Voice Remotes. 

2020 Experience Design & Technology Awards

Best High-Tech Audience Interaction, Gold

Best Use of a Single Technology (B-to-C), Gold

The vending machine visited dog parks, and when curious dog owners pressed the larger-than-life X1 Voice Remote button on the machine, they would hear a sound that drives dogs wild—a ringing doorbell or another dog barking, for example. The vending machine would then listen for the dog to bark and once they did, it would dispense a bag of premium dog treats in a limited-edition, The Secret Life of Pets 2 branded bag.

While there are many existing voice recognition platforms that can perfectly transcribe human speech, this was not the case for dog barks. To solve this challenge, GMR's software engineers used machine learning technology to create and train a sophisticated neural network that could analyze the sound coming from an embedded microphone and reliably identify when a dog barked in realtime.

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and their barks are just as varied. To ensure that our neural network could correctly identify barks from Chihuahuas, Great Danes, and everything in between, we needed to train our neural network with a large library of dog barks. We combed SFX libraries, visited dog kennels, and even recorded samples from our own employee’s dogs to make it all work. Once we had the AI working, the rest was simple. When the dog’s owner hit the button, the vending machine to reward each bark with the bag of treats.

We also had social influencers at the dog park events, generating buzz among dog parents and fans online.


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