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The Challenge

Is there a risk of us descending into a ‘digital darkness’? Will technology results in a loss of face to face communication?

Professor Matt Jones, believes there is a risk and believes a human-centred approach to digital technologies will help us to prevent this and help combat the ‘rise of the robot.’

The method

Professor Jones and his team have travelled extensively to remote rural communities in places such as South Africa and India to work with people there in developing new human-based technologies.  The team are working with a range of stakeholders including IBM and Microsoft Office and most recently with the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay to explore technology for emergent users in Mumbai.  Professor Jones and his team visited Mumbai, with a prototype of a speech-based system, similar to Alexa or Google Home, and developed from previous visits to Mumbai with the people there.  The people that asked the device a question would be given the option of having a human answer if they weren’t happy with the speech assistant technology answer.

Children in Mumbai with made Google postbox

The impact

  • The research revealed the sort of questions people wanted to ask, and also the quality of the answer provided by a human as opposed to that provided by a machine. It was found that about 40% of the time, people were satisfied with the automatic answer, but that 60% of the time they were much happier with their answer from a human being.
  • The team found that exploring the use of technology by different cultures around the world further raised the need to look at technology that will not just fit better into different community contexts but perhaps also provide new landscapes of digital opportunity for everyone; from people in Mumbai, to designers in California.

Doctoral Training Centre

The department of Computer Science has just set up a new doctoral training centre which will, over the next nine years develop 55 new researchers who are going to work with companies such as Google and Facebook, and public sector organisations such as the NHS to bring human-centred perspectives to AI and Big Data.

human-centred technologies

At Swansea University’s new computational foundry, scientists are exploring opportunities for new human-centred technologies so that technology becomes focused on human capability.

Inspiring future generations

The University’s hugely successful Technocamps project goes out to schools across Wales, to inspire future generations and to ensure they have a say in what kind of future is being made for them through the design of technology.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Swansea University Research Themes