A New Milestone Of Robot Ethics

A bomb disposal robot similar to that used to end standoff with Dallas gunman Micah Johnson.

Big questions arise from the tragic shootings of recent days in Dallas Texas. The local police defended their decision to use a robot to kill the gunman who had fatally shot five officers. The gunman was killed by the explosion of a device carried toward him by remote control, after he was cornered by officers at a college parking garage. The action is thought to be the first killing carried out by US police using a robot.

In the days since the event, legal experts around the world have expressed concern that the use of killer robots raises a battery of technical, ethical and legal questions which must be answered. Designers and professionals of every kind beware, there is much to be done to address the psychological, societal, ethical and legal aspects of our new non-human citizens.


The Soupometer

Cups of soup lined up at Pea Soup House, an installation linking soup to air quality.

How would you know whether the air quality is good or bad in London ? From the colour of your soup of course…

Staff and visitors at the central London headquarters of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) are being treated to daily free soup from the Pea Soup House, a pop-up installation in the lobby that serves colour-coded soup which matches the UK government’s Daily Air Quality Index (DAQI).  Flavours start with pea soup (green for good air quality) then move to yellow butternut squash or red pepper and chilli as the air gets worse.

“People might come to Pea Soup House not knowing much at all about air quality, or just say ‘free soup, brilliant’ – but that for us is a way into a wider discussion,” says architect Chris Allen. “The soup means people can connect that day to air quality and start to make those links themselves,” explains researcher Joe Jack Williams.


Reality Check: first human victim of automous cars

After a few years of mass hysteria it was bound to happen. Today’s newspapers all carry a piece about the recent unfortunate death of a gentleman in the USA who was in a Tesla Model S which was running on autopilot. As has been widely prognosticated, technology provides many opportunities but is not full proof and does not always provide better performance than a human being. Further, the serious point which much of the recent hysteria seems to have missed, is that the most critical aspect is not something related to the accuracy of the sensors or the software, but instead the complex dynamics between the human and the robot. The human centred design issues of communication, identity, social interaction, trust and ethics will be the far more difficult nuts to crack than the accuracy of the sensors in the rain or snow. Fortunately, centres such as HCDI are working hard to get to grips with these critical matters.


The Semantic Turn: a new foundation for design

It has come to my attention recently that I have been remiss in posting a mention of one of the key academic texts treating human centred design . Klaus Krippendorff’s comprehensive text provides a wealth of information and perspectives regarding the issues which are at the heart of human centred design.

As Krippendorff neatly summarises, “humans do not see and act on the physical qualities of things, but on what they mean to them”, and the text covers in detail the sources of meaning which arise from language usage and discourse.

While the text is certainly not an easy read, and may appear to many designers to be over-intellectualised and overreaching in scope, Krippendorff’s rigour and depth of thought cannot be faulted. It is difficult to image a single source of information which touches upon so many of the issues which are at heart of modern human centred practice.


Unilever Drops Sexist Stereotypes From Ads


A piece in today’s Guardian discusses the recent pledge by Unilever to drop all sexist stereotypes from its advertising so as to eradicate outdated portrayals of gender.

Unilever, the owner of brands including Dove and Lynx, is the world’s second-biggest advertiser and spends €8bn (£6.3bn) a year on more than 400 brands from Sunsilk to Knorr.

Its research found that 40% of the women surveyed said that they do not identify at all with the women they see in advertising.

Only 1% of the ads surveyed showed women being funny.

Only 2% of the ads surveyed showed intelligent women.

Only 3% of the ads surveyed featured women in managerial, leadership or professional roles.

And the surveyed sample was found to disproportionately represent women in domestic roles.

Unilever, which has won a string of awards and critical acclaim for its portrayal of women in its Dove ads, admits it is only the start of the long process.





5th Annual IIDA Healthcare Interior Design Competition

5th Annual IIDA Healthcare Interior Design Competition

The 5th Annual IIDA Healthcare Interior Design Competition is now open for entries. The competition celebrates excellence in the design and furnishings of healthcare interior spaces.

“Designers intuitively understand that exceptional design can positively impact a patient’s well-being and overall experience. With more research showing the link between design and positive patient outcomes, designers are making a tremendous impact on the healthcare industry,” said IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst.

Submissions are being accepted in the following categories: Ambulatory Care Centers, including Outpatient Clinics, Medical Practice Suites, and Medical Office Building Public Spaces; Hospice Care, including Palliative Care Facilities/Units; Hospitals, including Community/Academic/Teaching Hospitals, Pediatric Hospitals, Women’s Hospitals, and Geriatric Hospitals; and Senior Living and Residential Health, Care and Support Facilities, including Assisted Living Facilities, Nursing Homes, Community-based Service Facilities, and Continuing Care Retirement Communities.


Pornhub Becomes Accessible To The Blind

A recent piece in the Huffington Post describes a new frontier of inclusive design.

Pornhub.com has noted that there are more than 285 million people in the world who are blind or visually impaired, but that not many porn websites have catered to them. They have thus created a new category called “described video” that provides narration to already-existing films. Female narrators fill in the details, describing the setting, the actors, what positions they are in and even the outfits.

While any initiative related to pornography usually proves contentious, there is no denying the growing expectation of inclusivity across all aspects of life.