More intelligent, or less artificial? The UX choice for AI-human interaction

Brought to you by The User Experience Group

This event explores how AI can support the ultimate UX where users can do what they want to do without tools getting into their way.

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About the event

The ever-increasing rate of new technologies, once science-fiction, might lead us to believe that anything is possible.  Recent advances in Artificial Intelligence that allow us to talk to our virtual assistants by simply calling out "Siri", "Hey Google" or "Alexa" can lull us into a sense that we are indeed talking to an intelligent entity.  However, all too often things don't go quite as we expect and we end up with a frustrating experience.  This raises questions such as ‘What impact do the apparent human qualities have on our expectations?’ and ‘What shape or form might the interaction take to improve communication between the AI and the human?’  

In this UX SIG event we will explore these issues with help from Iulia Ionescu from the University of Arts London who has been carrying out research on the way people perceive virtual assistants and how this affects their behaviour; Libby Miller from BBC Research & Development who has been exploring how subtle gestures and appearance can communicate expressivity in robotic puppets and Tristan Ferne, also from the BBC, who has been investigating methods of making AI more understandable and explainable, and how that might improve trust.

You can follow @CambWireless on Twitter and tweet about this event using #UX.


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The information supplied below may be subject to change before the event.


CW welcome & introduction to User Experience Group by Leo Poll, User Experience SIG Champion and President Akendi UK/Europe


‘just like me but not exactly’: Iulia Ionescu, Senior Lecturer & Course Leader, MRes Creative Computing, University of Arts London

An inquiry into the design of artificial intelligence, exploring users’ distorted expectations of anthropomorphic (humanlike) agents and the self-sustained obscurity of their technological inner workings.


‘Many Ways to Explain AI': Tristan Ferne, Lead Producer, BBC R & D

Very few AI-enabled products explain how and why they use this technology and yet it is increasingly pervasive and powerful. From our research we’ve seen users suggest that they would like to know more about AI in a system, but when shown interfaces to explain recommendations they were nonplussed. We also see millions of users frequently using AI-powered apps without a second thought to understanding how they work. But as the recent AI Council Roadmap says “It is about knowing enough to be a conscious and confident user of AI-related products; to know what questions to ask, what risks to look out for, what ethical and societal implications might arise, and what kinds of opportunities AI might provide“. So how can we make our AI-powered services more understandable? Can we encourage people to care about understanding it? And how can this benefit individuals and society?


'Low-resolution versions of people using machine learning and other technologies': Libby Miller, Senior Producer, BBC R&D

Libby has spent a few years trying to replicate herself, and more recently her friends. It's getting easier and easier to make something you can interact with that reminds you of a particular person - though whether any of it is a good idea is it another matter. She'll walk through some of the techniques she's used to make "people", including GPT-2, voice generation and physical presence robots, and talk about some of the limitations and hilarities of making a user interface to a "person".


Panel session with all speakers chaired by Leo Poll, User Experience SIG Champion


Wrap-up by Leo Poll, User Experience SIG Champion




Event close


Tristan Ferne - Lead Producer, BBC Research & Development

Tristan is a producer at the BBC’s R&D department where he uses technology and design to prototype the future of media and the internet. He likes creative combinations of technology and design.

Iulia Ionescu - Senior Lecturer & Course Leader, MRes Creative Computing, University of Arts London

Iulia Ionescu is an artist / technologist examining people’s often fraught relationships with social algorithms. Her work, conveyed through software, electronics, installations and art explores the multifaceted range of human attitudes and mental models of digital technologies around us. Equipped with the belief that every software system is a social system, her work often questions the neutrality of this nascent social world. She attained her MA/ MSc (Distinction) from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London and is currently completing her Microsoft Research-sponsored PhD on the design of anthropomorphic AI agents, at the Royal College of Art. She expands on this research work in her role as Senior Lecturer and Course Leader of the MRes Creative Computing Programme at the University of Arts London.

Libby Miller - Senior Producer, BBC Research & Development

Libby Miller is a producer at BBC R&D, and builds robots in her spare time.

SIG Champions

Marine Barbaroux - Head of Design, Geckoboard

Marine is a product and UX designer in Cambridge and has been in and around the design field for more than 20 years. With an education in product design and graphic art, she joined the world of software for a good number of years. Currently, she works at Geckoboard. She's designed a number of products and managed UX teams both in France and in the UK, mentored at Springboard (now TechStar London), and recruited a fair number of whatever-the-flavour-of-the-month-is-UX-o-tronologists you can think of... For her, design is about problem-solving more than anything. The role of a designer is to come up with novel concepts where required, but also make sure those are realistic and achievable. Cooperation is key. In her spare time, she works with acrylics, Photoshop and Illustrator to keep the creative juices flowing!

Allan MacLean - Director, Amdeo

Amdeo specialises in the development and exploitation of high tech innovations. Amdeo principal, Allan MacLean, has worked in research and management roles at the leading edge of Information and Communication Technologies for over 25 years. He was a founder member of Xerox's European Research Centre in the 80's and was a major contributor to building it into one of the world's leading centres of expertise in the user centred design of innovative technologies. In 2002, he co-founded Image Semantics, which he helped lead to become a global provider of innovative mobile applications and services. Allan has frequently advised on funding programmes in the UK, Europe and North America to help improve the fit between technologies and human needs and improve the exploitation of government funded research.

Leo Poll - Director, Keen Design

Technically everything is possible, making it work for people is where the real challenges are. Addressing these challenges from an end-user perspective in a way that makes business sense is what drives Leo. With more than 20 years of experience in Innovation driven Experience Research and Design he is able to bring an ability of strong lateral thinking combined with broad domain knowledge of applications/markets and technical enablers. Previous to his role at Akendi, Leo worked for the mobile phone division of Philips in Le Mans, France, managed numerous international projects whilst employed by Philips Electronics UK, was a member of the global 'Connectivity Programme' board of Philips Research, (Co-)founded Ryppel Ltd, Eversfield Innovation Ltd, Galileo Software Adviesbureau v.o.f.

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