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May 13, 2022

E245 - Human Robot Interaction will Change the Food Industry

This week on the show, we talk about how Human Robot Interaction will change the food industry. We also answer some questions from the community about combating disinformation through Human Factors/HCI/UX, preparing for graduate school if gaining research experience isn’t an option, and the struggle we all have with scope creep.


Recorded live on May 12th, 2022, hosted by Nick Roome with Barry Kirby.

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Transcript

 

Welcome to Human Factors Cast, your weekly podcast for human factors, psychology and design.

 

 

High energy. Hi, everybody. Welcome back to Humans Factors Gas. This is episode 245. We're recording this live on May 12. I'm your host, Nick Rome. I am joined today by Mr. Barry Kirby. Barry High energy Barry Kirby. Good evening. Very high energy. Perfect. Hey, we got a great show for you all. Tonight we're going to be talking about human robot interaction and really technology in general and how it's going to change the food industry. And later, we're going to answer some questions from the community about combating disinformation through human factors. Hci. Ux, all that stuff. We're also going to be talking about preparing for graduate school if you're gaining research, experience is not an option. And the struggle we all have with scope creep. But first, here's some programming notes. Last week I messed up the schedule royally, so I made sure that this week it is correct. So upcoming we have on the 19th, we have a normal episode for you all. On the 26th, we're going to provide some coverage of EHF. Barry has some wonderful folks who have interviewed in is that called in to Twelve Two? We're going to be sharing some across, and we're going to be sitting down talking about that. And on the 2 June we're going to be off. And then we'll be back for a normal show back on the 9 June. But Barry, what's going on with Twelve Two? Still summer hiatus? What's up? I've got no idea. Nothing's happening. No. In reality, with work and everything, I've been snowed under and I've been lining up some awesome interviews. So we've got some awesome interviews coming up. And that be will back into a proper schedule again in the next couple of weeks. Awesome. And I'm looking forward to your EHF coverage. That's coming soon, too. Yes, hopefully I've got all the interviews. They're all done now, with the exception of one, which is Amanda. So we're going to have a specific show on that as well. If we can get this all done right. And there's no reason why we shouldn't, because we're very competent people will release all in the same week. So we'll have my stuff go out on the Monday, we'll have this go on the Thursday, and it'll all be like seamlessly, unplanned amazingness. Seamless podcast, synergy. All right, we know why you're all here. You're here for the news. So let's go ahead and get right into it.

 

 

Yes. This is the part of the show where we talk all about human factors news. Barry Kirby, Where's the Bee? Oh, is that how we started? Okay, so the story this week is from butcherbots to Roboburger flippers six ways the food industry is turning to tech in 2022. So restaurants and food suppliers around the world are taking lessons really learned from the pandemic and in many cases, adapting their technologies to more permanent solutions. An article by Gizmodo details some of the examples that we use in the pandemic that may have a long lasting impact. And so I'm just going to quickly go through these six different technologies. So within food preference cookery itself, Myo electronics sorry. Micro Robotics made a splash during the pandemic with its burger flipping bought API dubbed Flippy, which sells around 300 burgers a day, but also might come up with another bot called Chippy, which, Funnily enough, focuses on the preparing of tortilla chips. We're also going to robot butchery, where meat processors are investing in autonomous Butcher robots capable of deboning and butchering meat. The industry reportedly hopes that these autonomous systems could one day reduce workplace injuries associated with the butchery business. The pandemic acted as a real accelerant for these Butcher bots because the general that we got this from noted that since the crowded factory floors were a hotbed for covered 19 transmission, then we also talk about automatic dormant. And this is looking at use of facial recognition because that is proven contentious. Grocery stores and bars and some places in particular in the UK, but also in the US, are trying to use the tech to guess their patrons ages. Online ordering, as we know, was already around before the pandemic, but actually during the pandemic, it surged in online ordering, promoting an uplifting restaurants developing and enhancing their own apps. As an example, the number of fast food chains are also now using location tracking data to keep tabs on the diners or the couriers in order to have their food ready for pickup just at the right moment. Self checkout cashier lists Self checkout systems have existed for a number of years in many grocery stores, but also fast food chains like McDonald's have used them now for quite a lot for ordering, but they could see even wider adoption this year, thanks in part to the pandemic habits and tight labor markets. And finally, something that has really exploded over here in the west is QR codes. They've been used as replacements for physical menus or for dairy line for diners to order their meals. Last year, it saw a 750% increase in downloads of the span of 18 months. It's believed companies using QR codes could potentially save between 30 and 50% on labor costs alone by reducing the number of servers. So, Nick, that's a very quick overview. What's your thought on the rise of the robot chefs? Yeah. So a couple of thoughts here. One robot overlords body bloody Baha. Second thought was looking for thumbnails this week made me very hungry, obviously looking for a lot of food. And the third question, I guess the third real, first real point I had third point here is Where's the human factors and I made the joke at the top, Where's the BF? It's a visual gag because on the little ticker we have, Where's the BHF? Anyway, I feel like I had to explain that joke. So it's not really a joke anymore because I had to explain it. But here's the thing. When you look at the story at face value, you're like, okay, cool technology in food industry. I mean, what human factors where. But we got a great breakdown for you of exactly where this touches human factors. We're going to try something a little bit different in terms of the format tonight, but from a societal perspective, anytime there's new technologies, I feel like there's going to be a large pushback from some folks and we can talk a little bit about that in society and culture. But Barry, before we move on, I want to get your initial thoughts on this article. Yeah. I mean, obviously around technology and any sort of geeky, then I'm down with this sort of thing is really cool. I love seeing it in action. But when you look at that wider thing. So I'm going to start pushing back right from the beginning to a certain extent, because we sort of got to think about this in terms of are we going to start losing artisan skills because of the within the restaurant business, within that type of thing? Are we just going to fundamentally forget how to Cook, how to do some of this basic stuff? In the grand scheme of things, if we're talking about going out and having that restaurant experience Where's the humanity is, it all just about getting that burger as quickly as you can in a fast food chain, or do you want that broader experience of having somebody creating your food, being presented with the food and that type of thing? But then we do get a whole bigger cultural bit about jobs of the future every time that is that constant pushback of whenever we get a level of automation that's taken away somebody's job, apparently now there is that wider discussion around, well, actually, jobs just becoming different, but fundamentally, that is something that we are going to have to think about. It does lead you into conversations around things like universal basic income, what is the future of the workplace and things like that. But that might be going a bit far for tonight. So do we want to go into our newly polished and new way of analyzing these stories and bust out the human factors domains? Yeah, let's talk about human factors domains, because what we've done traditionally is, well, I guess we used to kind of have this approach, but then somewhere in the episode 200s, we kind of got to this approach of like, let's focus down a really specific rabbit hole, give some really interesting backstory about a specific aspect of a story, and then talk about it through the lens of the story. But I think really tonight there's just so much interesting stuff here that we wanted to try a different way. So we're going to take a look at these through various human factors domains and really kind of focus on that and really how it all impacts this story here in technology and food industry. The first thing we can kind of start with here is the obvious human AI robot teaming. There's going to be a lot going on here between the human actor and the robot actor in this space, especially when we talk about the technologies that focus on robots here. There's other technologies. You mentioned QR codes, you mentioned self checkout. I'm talking about HR right now. There's things that we have to consider. Like where does the hand off occur from a human operator to a robot operator? If you think about the butchering example, the robot Butcher, well, when it's done, does the robot hand it over to you? Does it put it down, and then you pick it up as a human? Where's that transfer? And how do you make sure that it's done safely? We'll talk about safety separately, but thinking about that hand off, where does it occur? Burger flippers. Same thing. Do they set the burgers aside for you to sort of put them on a bun? Do you have an assembly maker then at that point a sandwich artist? And then it's kind of like all that stuff. And then, of course, there's the seminal trust in the robot's ability to do their job. Does the human trust a robot Butcher with a knife that they will not cleave them and hurt them? We can talk about safety later, too. So there's a lot of things going on here just from a high level human AI robot teaming perspective. Barry, any thoughts on that? Yeah, I think this is going to be one of the key bits, because normally when you go to a restaurant, it goes back to kind of what we're saying around. Are you just wanting fast food thrown out at you? So you're going through your burger joint and actually it's just an assembly of ingredients. It's wrapped and then presented to you. That probably would be fine. I don't know, as a good feel, that would be fine. That would be kind of what we would expect. But then if you go into, like, say, quite a posh restaurant, you could see some of the cooking being done in the back by some level of automation. You've got chefs there, you've got automated, you've got robot chefs doing their thing. How would they all work together as a team? Because restaurant kitchens get very busy, very hectic. How would all that work? But then is there another element there? Because there's this rise in the restaurants that you have a chef at the front, don't you, where they're doing fancy knife work. They're doing showing how they can cut meat up in different ways and cut the vegetables very fast. Is there going to be an element there, the way you have the robot in almost the center of the room and he'd been used almost as a display performance piece, cooking all that food and then delivering out to people. How do we make all that work? And is that the sort of thing we want to be seen? So I think how we engage with them is going to be a key element in all of this. Yeah, I agree. Take it, take it to personnel. Right. So pick up the personnel piece is really about how is this going to involve people and affect people. So on the positive side, we've already talked about these going to have things like sharp things, we talk about hot things. We're going to have the opportunities for being cut for Burns, what you do normally in a kitchen or a foodstuffs environment. It was already said that the meat processing places were ripe for infection or transmitting infection. So having something like this approach actually reduces risk for people. It keeps people safer in a hazardous environment. If everything goes to plan, it also reduces the number of people. If you look at a staffing side of things, reducing the number of people that business needs to run. If you want a niche business or something like a burger joint, that type of thing, if you can get a lot more automated things, then you've got more of a chance of running a business and keeping your overhead low because you're running with all this machinery, as I've kind of said a number of times now, in terms of the fast food bit, then that will probably fulfill the requirement of the people who are getting that sort of food. It will get that food quickly. It will be to the right sort of standard. And we'll talk about the engineering design of it later on. But then we look at, as I mentioned, does that fit what we have in terms of standard restaurant? Does that fulfill an experience which then leads you into them? The idea of what is that cultural thing around going out for a meal, what is it we expect from that? What is the social script around that? Is there anything you want to bring in on the personal side? Yeah. A little bit about social scripts. Right. We have this kind of expectation as a society that we walk into a restaurant, I'm talking sit down here and we sit down, we look at the menu that is handed to us, which we'll talk a little bit about in a minute here. But from the QR code side, it took me a minute to kind of get used to the QR codes. I expected to be handed a menu. My social script of understanding what happens when you sit in a restaurant is already sort of getting the perception of that is changing. And so what happens then when you have. Yes, more and more technology, more and more automation, do you sort of stand in line at maybe a fast food restaurant, realize there's no cashier and you have to go to a self service kiosk how long do you wait there before that is understood? How long do you sit at a table before you realize that these menus are not being handed to you? There are changes that we will have to make as a culture, as a society. We can talk about society and culture later about how we perceive these things. And so it's not just the people in the restaurant that are working there, but also the folks that are coming there as patrons. So let's talk a little bit about the way these places are set up. Environmental design. Right. I mentioned how long will you have to wait before you realize you have to go to self check out? You have to do a self check out for your food. Well, there's designing the spaces. You have to do some consideration around designing spaces for that self check out experience. Right. Do you make it front and center? You do put it up against the register where the person traditionally was. So you still have an expectation of going up to the counter, pressing your buttons, getting your food, but it's in the same place, just different way to interact with it. That's something we have to think about. Right. If we put these robots like burger flippers, chip makers, meat choppers in the kitchen, we have to think about how that space is also designed as well. In fast food places, those kitchens can be quite tiny. And so you have to really think hard about the way the robot is interacting with the things that it's doing. Does the burger flipper sit above the grill, or does it sit in front of it obscuring kind of a walkway for others to kind of walk through? So that's something that you have to consider. You also think about in the future. This wasn't mentioned in the article, but I can imagine a world where we have delivery robots. So now instead of waiters and waitresses, we have delivery robots putting your food on your table for you. You have to design a space that is not only conducive to having a robot move through that environment, but also make it so that way they can quickly duck out of the way in case a human is coming. And also you have to consider whether or not that robot is handling food or any other delicate objects on board. Right. So just thinking about all this stuff, there's also the issue of making these robots visible in the environment. It's going to be an entirely different way to interact with these things that are not there now. Right. We're changing those social scripts. We have to think about making those robots visible, but also that could be aesthetically unpleasing. You have a bright yellow safety vest Orange robot in this restaurant. Does it mess with the sort of environment and what does that do for your experience? There's a lot to consider when it comes to environmental design. Barry passing it back over to you. Any thoughts? Yeah, I think there's a whole bunch of stuff here that is done already, and we can take what's going to be really cool about this is just taking that innovation to move in. So self checkout. There's famous burger joints that do that already, but now use on a fairly regular basis. It took a couple of sessions to go into that restaurant before you like, actually know that's the way it's done. Would you want the same would you be happy with that same sort of experience in something a bit more high end? Again, that goes back to that social script. Right. But this design in the kitchen, I think is really interesting because if we're going to get it right, going back to the human AI robot teaming piece, we can't just design the robot to fit in around the human or the human to fit in around the robot. We've got to get into this code design piece and make sure that we're making the best of both worlds, basically using the right almost the right tool for the right job. And I'm making that way, which is at the moment, we do sort of have a bit of an attitude of, well, the robots there, therefore, the human has to move around it and be aware of it. With the development of what we do now, there's a lot more potential around good code design. So I'm going to then go into the performance and training side of things. So really what we should be having here, these robots and things should give you a high level of performance. But that has to come with a low training burden because we're not going to have experts around all the time to be able to manage with these robots. If they're well designed, if they're well engineered, they shouldn't have a high maintenance or a high breakdown threshold. So we should be able to go into the training element should be low. We have phones now that are very complicated. Nobody ever reads an instruction book for them anymore, and we're going to have to get there with that. However, when it does go wrong, we have spoken about this in terms of using autonomous vehicles. What happens when that goes down? You need to then step up to an alternative. So what's going to be that backup? And therefore, how are you going to train your staff to deal with that type of thing? With that training element, we do need to train the operators to interact with the new technologies. And it's not just not just the employees, but how are the public expected to go into a place and know, how much time are we going to give them? Because it's going to have to be done with a promotion and being around. Look, we've got a new way of interacting. How long does that go on for? I think there is no precedent out there but I do remember going to a restaurant a number of years ago, and they tried to pioneer something along the remote side. All it was was a speaker and microphone in the center of the table. Now, as soon as we went in, I put a newspaper over the center of the table. I had no idea that I was meant to interact with this thing in that way because it was hidden to me straight away, because I hidden it by accident. We need to make sure that it's well highlighted until it gets properly embedded as a true activity. So is there anything you want to bring here on performance and training? No, I think you kind of hit it there. The way in which we introduce this technology into the food industry is going to be critical. Right. One time I went into a restaurant and there's this little tablet looking thing on the edge of the table that you can then pay for your meal at. And the first time I was like, oh, man, this is a new thing. What does it do? Right. So there's like this element of discovery. And when you think about training personnel in the environment itself, sorry, the employees, that makes sense. But then you have to make things sort of usable. We'll talk about usability a little bit later, talk about sort of making things intuitive and usable for the people who you can't give training to necessarily. So let's jump in a little bit to sort of these communications, Privacy concerns I mentioned. How do you communicate these changes? That is something, especially when it's from the order's perspective. You can't train them. Right? It's a question. I mentioned the story earlier, Barry. Did you get used to QR codes or menus quickly when they started introducing them? Because I didn't. I sat at a table for a while. I was expecting the waiter waitress to give me a physical copy. Still is. Now the whole using QR codes is I just find it is a bit non intuitive to a certain extent. Unless it's well advertised, I still see it as an addition. It doesn't still feel like a main process yet, right? Yeah. I feel like that is going to be something that's interesting to look at. We also have to look at sort of these Privacy concerns. When you look at data collected on people, is that being communicated? Right. Are your button presses on those little kiosks on the side being communicated to the patrons that that data is being collected? I think there's kind of a mutual understanding. But then there's some of the other technologies going on that it's maybe less obvious where you have that facial recognition. Is there anything in the environment that lets you know that you are being monitored? Like, there's the little signs that say this area is monitored by CCTV. Is there anything that communicates that your face is being analyzed by AI against the database, all that stuff. It's things that we need to think about. So any thoughts on communication, Privacy concerns? Not really. I think you got it. I think it is going to be really key, certainly in the early adopter phase. If you look at the innovation curve, that early bit of getting people on board, communication is going to be absolutely key. If we go into system safety and health hazards, a lot of this is kind of fairly obvious from kitchen should be kept clean, it should be kept sanitary, the food should be cooked to the right temperature for what it is, et cetera, et cetera. And all of this would still absolutely apply. It just needs to apply to the automation as much as it does the people. It is also about keeping operator safe. You mentioned earlier about how does the automated, the robot or whatever it is, work in the kitchen and how do we make sure people keep safe then there's a good design stuff around isolation, the emergency stops, but robot wielding knives, any good movie that anybody's watched, that's something to be aware of, shall we say. But robots move. If we're doing it right, then robots move. We would expect them to either move or traverse around the kitchen doing deliveries, as you mentioned earlier, that's all stuff that we need to think about. I don't want to make it sound like I'm just saying safety needs to be done. It's obvious. It kind of is. But I don't think it's actually vastly different to the sort of things we should be thinking about already. We've just got a different factor in there. Do you think I'm being a bit BlasEt about that, or do you think there's more to consider? No, I think you're right. I think the more we kind of keep these environments in check. Right. We kind of talked a little bit about an environmental design, but really those environmental factors, as well as safety play in hand in hand together. And I think the more we can think about where the human is at in any sort of one given moment. Right. Whether they're walking to the restroom and potentially running into a robot in the hallway there, whether you are in the kitchen with a knife wheeling robot, there is that behind a cage that they then throw it over to you between a thing. Those are considerations that we need to make from that perspective. And so I think you're absolutely right. Hit the nail on the head. Let's talk a little bit about usability, system evaluation, accessibility, because I think these are pretty big topics here, especially when you consider just in general, the usability of these online ordering apps. Right. Think about people at home. There's some interesting things going on with those. Again, not a technology that we talk about in the main story, but something that we need to consider because those things are almost nefariously designed in order to get you to buy more like having exclusive discounts on some of these things. And so the whole usability aspect of those online ordering decisionmaking systems. Right. How do you help me make a decision about what I want? Everything looks the same. The usability of self check out. We need to look at that stuff. Right. So again, how easily is it placed in the environment for others to understand where it's at or really how long before it time out after a user stops pressing it? So how long does the next person have to wait if the person just ahead of them gets frustrated and leaves? How do you communicate what's in your cart? All this stuff. So there's a lot of different things that we have to think about from that side of it. Now, I want to bring up a point from the chat here question about AI potentially helping with accessibility both for patrons and employees. This is by Buddha of Light and so on our Twitch. I want to bring this up because this is a really important point from accessibility perspective. When you think about sort of making these things accessible, you need to consider everyone in your design. Really. You need to think about the people who may not be able to pull out a phone or be able to understand some of the social cues around needing to interact with a QR code or even from the perspective of an employee that is potentially unable to work with robots in a manner that is cooperative. Those are things that we need to consider as well. Barry, I want to pass it over to you. Any thoughts here? It's interesting, isn't it? Because I guess there's one element around the use of AI to help with accessibility of itself. So are we going to be able to use AI to help patrons access the service or the product that we are going to deliver? So does that mean we can actually step back and be less prescriptive around how we order? So you could actually just be turning around and saying, I want some food and he understands maybe more about you and can help you derive what it is that you actually want if you can't communicate in a more obvious way. Also, when you're looking at it from an employee perspective, would it shape because we're already seeing it? If you can't engage or use the technology, does that mean you're just not employable? Is this going to have that sort of social impact or is it going to help us with people who are maybe allow us to employ people who are more neurodiverse or with physical disabilities or whatever within the kitchens and actually use their skills to their most potential because they're supported by AI and by technology? It's an interesting one about it could go either way, I think, depending on going back to the social construct and what the drivers are within that society. Right I think we could spend almost like another episode just talk about this specific issue we could not last point. But one more point that you could think about, too, is designing for those who are wheelchair bound. And so thinking about the height of some of these self checkout systems, do you design something that's universal for teenagers and folks in wheelchairs to be able to access these, or do you have an Ada compliant wheelchair or sorry, not wheelchair Ada compliant self check out system that is at a different height for those who are unable to reach it at the other, quote unquote standard height. Right. So there are other things that we can think about here, and you're absolutely right. We can break this down in a whole separate breakdown. But I want to hear a little bit more about engineering. Barry, you want to jump into that? I'll take engineering, absolutely. The engineering this is going to be really interesting. I think a lot of it we probably already understand from doing that translation from different areas that use things like robotics and that already. But it's around making sure the engineering standard is up there and the systems engineer is there to make sure that they work 99% of the time, because the maintenance here is going to cost money. The hospitality industry works on largely, I think, fairly thin margins, given a lot of repetition. So anything that you're doing with this, it needs to be a high level of uptime. But any maintenance that needs to be done, regular maintenance, then that needs to be easy to do. Again, we talked about how to train people and all that sort of stuff. Then that needs to be really good, because if the maintenance is difficult, it'll get skipped. That means that you're into more downtimes. But then you do need to step into what happens when they do fail. How do they feel safe? How do they fail in a way that a user or human operator can then go and step in and either complete what was going on or gracefully degrade the service of the overall establishment. We've talked about similar things to this, again with the autonomous vehicles and how they come out of auto drive. And there was some really good papers done in the recent economics conference around this very topic. And then the other bit is it's obviously going to be highly sanitized. And I guess we can draw some parallels here to the health industry, as well as the Bits and Bose. But you have some very high end engineering things, but they need to be able to work in a way that is very clean because of the obvious. So that's a really high level sketch to engineering. But I think there's a whole lot of stuff there that needs to play. Have you got any thoughts on that, or do you want to crack on? Yeah, let's just go ahead and get it. We're running short on time. I want to make sure we have enough time to talk about the social, organizational, societal real impacts here. Because for me, there's the question of how well society perceive these incremental improvements. Right. If they happen over time, slowly, I don't think there's going to be some pushback, but it won't be as big as if we make all these sweeping changes at once. Now, the article in Gizmodo is suggesting that these will all take place in 2022. I don't know if all of them will see the light of day in 2022, but these technologies exist, and when we use them in tandem, we have to think about what the interaction effects between them are for really understanding how people will see this. Well, you mentioned at the top. Is this the sort of beginning of the end for discussions about UBI or jobs in general? How do they change over time? I think this is a really important question to ask and my sort of takeaway question for the motivations for implementing these technology, or really any technology is what's the motivation behind it? Is it to reduce cost for the patrons, for the people who are buying the hamburgers, or is it to ultimately increase the profit for the C suite? Cynical, Me says increased profit for C suite. But you did bring up the good example of having these technologies available, reduces the number of overhead and therefore could make it more accessible to those who wanted to start their own business because they don't need to hire as many people. They can just buy these robots and call it done. Does it then further serve democratization of the food industry? Can more people get into this field because the technology makes it available? I don't know. These are just high level questions. Barry, I want to hear about your thoughts and opinions on the societal organizational changes here. I think this is going to be a bit of a game changer, if I'm honest in the way that we think about technology and technology adoption, because in some of the other bits, if you're working in the factory round, if you work in manufacturer and things like that, you've seen robots around now for quite a while. If you work in warehousing and logistics, you've seen robots and automation now for quite a while. But it's always kind of a downs that it's at work or it's on the road, it's in the air, but it actually doesn't affect you sort of on a day to day basis. That's really in your face. This will put it in your face, actually quite literally. Forget the programming. Wrong. But you'll take that the food could be delivered to you completely automated. What will that do to us as a society? This sector is, I believe, the biggest employer throughout the world in the hospitality sector. This will not only could make it safer, it could make it more efficient, but it could also put more people on the dole queue in the job center. So what is it going to do? And I think it will be really interesting to see how it evolves. I think it could be really good. I think it could reduce cost for patrons. I think it could increase profit. Neither of them are a bad thing as long as we do it in the right way and we make it go forward. So, yes, I think it's going to be quite interesting and I'm quite looking forward to it. You mentioned the time. Have you got any sort of final thoughts on the overall article or we could be considering? Yeah. I mean, the society and organizational, all those points really could be tied up into its own discussion, its own episode, its own separate podcast series, whatever. There's just so much to think about with introducing new technology. And there's an interesting comment on the article on the website itself. It was a comment on remote cashiers, and sort of it's almost like a medium or a midpoint between introducing self checkout technology outright and slowly transitioning into that adoption of technology where maybe you have remote cashiers, where cashiers sitting at home at their computer and they're still cashiering, but they are presented on a video screen inside the restaurant. Right. That might be one way to sort of drive adoption of these technologies from that societal view. When you think about how many places this could touch, that would be a lot more palatable for those screaming they took our jobs, and then it would also be more palatable for those patrons coming into the restaurant saying, I don't know what to do here, can somebody help me? And so it's an interesting point. I wanted to bring that up because the speed at which we adopt technology is also a critical factor for adoption of that technology. Barry, what about you? Any sort of last loose rounds on this? Yeah, I guess just one final thought for me around talk about the human factors of stuff in this. There's been a recent review of human factors around food safety in Ireland. And actually their research showed that there are 86 closures closure orders in Ireland. So that's 86 establishments that are dealt to to close every year due to human factors related issues, largely down to risk management of cooking and storage. So clearly, automation, robotics, and that can play a large part in stopping a number of them closures because of these technologies to do the appropriate sensing the appropriate measures and putting in that level of situational awareness that the appropriate decisions can be made in a timely manner. So just as a food for thought, there was definitely loads of scope there for human factors in all of this. Food for thought. Was that a pun I heard? All right. Thank you to our patrons this week and not our Twitter followers, because actually they disagreed when our patrons actually outweighed them for selecting our topic this week. Thank you to our friends. Over to Gizmodo for our news story this week. If you want to follow along, we do post the links to all the original articles on our weekly roundups on our blog as we find them. You can also join us in our discord for more discussion on these stories and much more. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back to see what's going on in the Human Factors community right after this. Human Factors Cast brings you the best in Human Factors news, interviews, conference coverage, and overall fun conversations into each and every episode we produce. But we can't do it without you. The Human Factors Cast Network is 100% listenersupported. All the funds that go into running the show come from our listeners. Our patrons are our priority and we want to ensure we're giving back to you for supporting us. Pledges start at just $1 per month and include rewards like access to our weekly Q and A's with the hosts, personalized professional reviews, and Human Factors Minute, a Patreon only weekly podcast where the host breakdown unique, obscure and interesting humanfactors topics in just 1 minute Patreon. Rewards are always evolving. So stop by Patreon.com Humanfactorscast to see what support level may be right for you. Thank you. And remember, it depends. Yes, huge. Thank you. As always to our patrons, we especially want to thank our honorary Human Factors Cast staff, Michelle Tripp. Thank you so much for all your support. Hey, we have a website. Our accountant says to plug the website. We don't get any money from the website. I don't know why they're asking us to plug it anyway. There's all sorts of fun stuff over there on our website. I don't know if you know this, but we have detailed show notes, including links to any of the guests that were on this week. There's embedded YouTube videos on those episodes, so you can see once again how handsome Mr. Barry Kirby is. If you're regularly an audio listener, maybe check that out every once in a while. There's also our news roundups. I mentioned that that's where we sort of get all of our news and put it all into one place for you. We have those weekly and a monthly round up. We also post those kind of all over the internet, so follow us on social for that as well. If we ever do have guests on the show, we always have more information on those. There are ways that you can submit your own news story. So if you're a researcher that you want to be featured on the show, let us know. There's a link in the description of this episode or on our website. You can do it there. You can also search on our website. And I think that's one of the most powerful things our website offers is search, so you can actually look through all of our episodes, all of our news recaps, all of our deep dives, all of our Human Factors minute content, see if there's a topic on the thing that you're searching for. And, of course, there's always a conference coverage. We're always trying to put out more content in different types of ways. In fact, that is the goal of our digital media lab. So if it's been a minute since you've checked out our website, please go take a look at Humanfactorscast Media or we stole the Domain Humanfactors Podcast.com. Barry is still salty about it. No, I'm not. All right, well, why don't we go ahead and get into this next part of the show?

 

 

Yes, this is the part of the show we like to call it Came from. This is where we search all over the Internet to bring you topics the community is talking about. And no matter where you're watching, if you find these answers useful, give us a like to help other people find this content. That virality kind of helps. Anyway, we have three up tonight. This first one here is from this is from the last Milk Bender on the user experience subreddit. They say, how much do you think UX or HCI can help in combating Disinformation spread and extremely polarized communities in digital platforms? I am just frustrated with the political turmoil in my country built on Facebook and Disinformation spread. Barry, we are now on TikTok helping with that Disinformation spread. What do you think? How can human Factors help? I think we should go to the Human Factors Cast account on TikTok and just go and experiment with it and just see what you think. There are two elements to this. The biggest way of spreading Disinformation largely is through bots. And so that's where people have created effectively fake or automated accounts to push forward an agenda or certain words or to give themselves more influence. So if we could allow people to see which, from HCI perspective, which accounts are bought and which accounts real, verified people, then that would be a really good thing. Or just get rid of the bot completely. That would also be helpful. But some people use good bot in some used bot in a good way. It's a bit of a sticky one. But if you knew which accounts were bought and which were real, that would help. The other side of this is we talk about that. We have extremely polarized communities and things like that. That's people that's the idea that actually people do have a broad variety of views. And you could argue that actually, historically, we've just never heard them before because our only way of listening to them has been through what we've read in the press, in the printed or in the visual media. Well, now that we have all of these networks, all of these channels, all of these abilities for the likes of us to promote and spread the good word about human factors. We have that ability. We don't go through any quality checking or anything like that. We just come on and ramble about what we like to talk about. Everybody has now got the opportunity to become a content creator. So we might not like it, but actually I think it's one of these things that's been there for a long time and it's actually what we need to understand in terms of we have to become better at influencing people about getting across our point and having grown up discussions around what we think and why we think them and become better at persuading and not just demanding that people think in the same way as we do. I think it's scary for many people because not many people realize that. I think that maybe their neighbors had the views that they had and this is almost like an age of enlightenment of people can have their views. The downside of this is people can have their views without ramification as well. So we lose a lot of that social structure but I think that will probably be an entirely different episode. What do you think, Nick? Do you think there are easy ways of doing this? Yes. So let's actually break down what's happening here with this information spread and these polarized communities. What's happening is that these social media platforms are built on outrage. They are built on engagement. And the things that drive engagement are things that are outrageous. US here at Human Factors Cast, we don't really do anything outrageous and therefore our stuff isn't surfaced in other ways. Like I don't know, things from Fox News that are very highly outrageous in a lot of ways sometimes. And so when you have these situations where content creators put out content and then it is engaged on at a rate that's higher than everything else, those algorithms behind the scenes say oh, this is therefore more worthy content, more people engage with it, it gets promoted, it's a cycle. Right. So from a human factors perspective behind the scenes what we can do is democratize the algorithm itself in what we value as a society, as a culture, as a digital culture to highlight importance on. Right. If enough people flag it as inappropriate or enough people give us a thumbs down button, if things that are unacceptable to society then maybe it will be surfaced less it is engagement, but maybe weigh that engagement against how much people dislike the thing and hide it for the greater good. There's also the consideration of sort of the controls on the user perspective. I already mentioned giving controls about thumbs down, that type of thing. But then there's also sort of really how we with respect to the communities. Right. So how we engage with those communities, we are surfaced a piece of content that looks at maybe an obscure topic but they choose the things that are sort of semi believable. It's kind of like a gateway drug, if you will, to these communities that are often damaging to society. And so it's usually not the people that you think that go into these society. I think I'm like you're. Right. And I think I might get flagged with that term. But it's important to talk about. So if you think about Q supporters. Right. They are often fed something that has some sort of level of credibility or sort of what if. Right. And then they engage with it, and then it puts them further into a certain category. And then these algorithms are feeding the people this content without them even realizing that they have now created a bubble for themselves. And so what you'll see, I don't think people are that polarized in reality. I think what happens is that these digital media platforms are pushing society into these bubbles which drive the most engagement. And so really, it all comes down to, can we rate these sources as a society and say, yes, this is credible? This is not credible. The research done here is sound research. The research said by these guys is just stuff that they babbled on a podcast. Are we an authoritative source for this? And I understand that us in that algorithm would be deprioritized to other things like scientific journals. The importance is that with things like science and communication, we have to be able to marry those two concepts, because the better we can communicate scientific fact as real information instead of disinformation, the better we can be about sort of communicating on these online platforms. Anyway, soapbox down. I want to open it one more time. Barry, any other closing thoughts on that one? Yes, we need to do a podcast on this because I think it's really important because there is an element here of one I completely agree with you on the scientific fact that. But on the other bit around what it is that people the algorithms only work because we know all the algorithms know that that's what people want to see. This is where the TikTok algorithm, I think is really clever, where you get people talking about what type of TikTok are they seeing, because it is constantly evolving to give you the sort of content that you're watching. So we kind of get what we ask for to a certain extent, to quite a large extent on a lot of platforms. So I think there is an element we perhaps give ourselves a lot more credit that we think that everybody is very nice and stuff. But yeah, I think there is an element of we get what we pay for. Anyway, we should really move on. Yeah, we should have put that one last. All right. This next one here is, aside from gaining research experience, what can I do to prepare for PhD programs? This is by a wagon on human factors subreddit, which we always love to see. They say, Hi, everyone. I'm a mechanical engineering student. I really decided. I recently decided that I want to go to grad school for Human Factors. I have two years left in undergrad, but until I learned about Human Factors, I was convinced that I would go into the industry right after graduation. Thus, while I have a significant amount of industry experience, I feel super far behind on preparing for grad school. I'd love to hear your thoughts. What can I do to prepare myself for applying to PhD programs and working in a research environment in general? Planning to join a lab. But are there other things that I should do or consider? So Barry, what can they do to consider preparing for grad school? I think if you can apply to PhD stuff just from my own experience, please just do it as soon as you can. Don't do what I've done, which is try and think. I didn't even think about doing a PhD after my initial degree or anything like that. I was just straight into work, straight into industry. Now I've had to go at doing a PhD once and had to pause it because work life gets in the way, all that sort of stuff. So if you got a chance of doing it early, crack on and do it because you won't get a better time. I don't think them to do it and to dedicate time to it in terms of working in a lab environment. Well, I don't know that if only I knew of a digital media lab, the work in Human Factors and was a great way of meeting people, then maybe I will go and join that. But I can't think of anything else. Is this always going to be petrol, an Advertisement for the lab? There's a couple of things that you can do that will really help you out. Here. One, understand the process for each institution that you are looking to apply to because it can be different for every single place. And have a spreadsheet of that process. Make sure that you have marked down what state that you're at along the way at every point. Right. That is one easy, really high return thing that you can do is understanding the process at each place, understanding what you need to do by when the deadlines are assuming you're applying to multiple places. The other things that you can do for yourself on Human factors, right? I mean, that is kind of the big thing. You've discovered the field and that's awesome. I'm super happy for you. We love the field too. That's why we're here. Learn more about it as much as you can come into that thing, as prepared as you can be. And the third thing I would offer for advice is to really research the faculty that you are hoping to work with. I think the faculty relationship that you will have with your mentor is a huge thing that often I don't want to say it often goes overlooked, but I think it is a critically important aspect to your success. If you have a good relationship with somebody or you guys agree on a lot of things and they can teach you in ways that you never thought that you could be taught, then you are going to have a more successful outlook. So I don't know. Do your research. Is that too on the nose for the last question? No. Spot on, I think. All right, let's talk about this last one. Struggling with scope creep. This one is by trick prompt 5613 on the UX Research Subreddit Hi all, I'm a UX researcher working with a very ambitious product exec. They're really excited to have me join their product team and conduct user research. However, what was supposed to be conducting usability testing with ten participants has turned into me conducting user interviews or using user testing product requirements gatherings with as many users as we can get. They're thinking like 20 plus in the same time span we originally agreed upon. Additionally, I typically run usability testing one to one, share the recordings and present findings. However, this exec wants five other people to join each meeting. I'm worried about bias creeping in. I will do my best to expectations set, but find myself having trouble pushing back with someone who is above me at work. Any advice? Have you been in this situation before? Barry? This sounds familiar. Yes, unfortunately, this is day whatever have been a human factors UX person. This is bread and butter. Great that you've got loads of buy in and they really want to use research. That's awesome. The bit about wanting to double the number of participants, that's fine as long as they've also come up with the time machine with which to do it. If you've already planned for doing ten and we know how long you've made your assumptions, you've done your planning, you know that you can do ten people at the time. There is literally not enough hours in the day to do 20 or to do them to the quote that you've already specified. So you need to go back and explain that you can do 20 if they give you twice as much time, or they give you twice as much resource or whatever it is in terms of the usability testing, if you usually run them one to one. I've got no real problem with other people wanting to join the usability testing as such. As long as you can set the ground rules, it's your usability testing. If they are coming to observe, that's fine. If they want to be part of the engagement, that's fine. But it's pre planned and it's rehearsed. If they just think they're going to go in there as you jump in and come up with stuff, they're not in the room. It is your engagement and that's what you're employed for. Hopefully the authority and the respect to be able to do that. If you get across that and they still want to do it another way, well, you've done the best you can. We sort of said before, pick your battles. What is critical to you in getting the job done if you have five people interrupting the Usability testing, is that a really a disaster as opposed to making sure that you only do the ten participants? It's kind of up to you. But Unfortunately, I'd like to say that this auto only happens very rarely, but it is the constant battle you have with trying to run any sort of research program. Nick, what do you think? Any different advice? Not really. You will occasionally run into these situations where somebody else organizes the research and you're just kind of there or people hijack your meeting for other motives. I think the best thing that you can do is expectation set and say, hey, look, I'm going to give you all an opportunity to ask questions, but you need to let me do my job here and do this thing upfront. So that way we get what we need out of this thing. There's definitely sort of the benefit to education does not equal action, right? We know that. But explaining things in a way that's easily digestible to this exec, you might be like, hey, we agreed on ten participants. Let me tell you, I need to spend X amount of hours preparing for each interview. I need to spend X amount of hours analyzing each thing. I need to spend X amount of hours actually engaging with and setting up time all this stuff, explain the time commitments and really push back and say, look, I can do ten, I cannot do 20. And if we start including more people into it, it's going to degrade the quality of data because we have XYZ. I think if you sit down and explain it to them, hopefully they'll be receptive, especially if there's buy in, which it seems like there is, I don't know, just something to consider. All right, it's time for One More Thing. It's just the part of the show where we talk about One More Thing. Barry, what's your One More Thing this week? I'm going to do a two for it's been a while since I've done Two more. I did my first executive meeting as President elect today. It was very exciting. That was all that was cool. But the real thing I wanted to mention was I decided to it's not often I get the time to pick up new books, a new book on methodology. So I picked up one on Black Box Thinking, which I thought was very cool. But then when I was looking on Amazon, other purchasing platforms are available. And the guy who wrote this one on Black Box Thinking has also written like five of the books on very similar things, which has led me to buying all of the books as one package. I'm holding up now 12345 different books by the same looking at black box thinking, looking at where sport teaches us about achieving success, about rebel ideas and about bounce, the myth of talent and the power of practice where I was going to buy one book. I've now got five books to read in the next week and I'm actually quite excited about doing so. I'm happy for you. I've been trying to get back into the book reading myself. You can see I have two over my shoulders because it'll be one month and so I'm trying to get into that too. But my one more thing this week is we're on TikTok. I mentioned it earlier. It's an interesting experience from putting stuff up there from their perspective. I see what they're doing. They're boosting the first couple of videos that you have to boost others to kind of promote yourself to other people as kind of a hook. You get so many views on it and you go, oh, this is great. And then it drops down. It's sneaky, it's predatory, and I don't like the practice, but please go follow us. That's it. Anyway, that's going to be it for today. Everyone. If you like this episode and enjoy some of the discussion about robots in our lives, I'll encourage you to go listen to episode 217, where we talk about the Tesla bots, how they might be able to improve your life. Comment wherever you're listening with what you think of the story this week. For more in depth discussion, you can always join us on our discord community. Visit our official website. Like I mentioned, sign up for our newsletter. Stay up to date with all the latest human factors news. If you like what you hear, you want to support the show. There's a couple of things you can do. One, wherever you're at right now, leave us a five star review that's free for you to do. Really helps us out. Two and always tell your friends about us. If you have like minded human factors UXE friends that love this type of stuff, let them know. And three, if you have the financial means, you can always support us on Patreon. As always, links to all of our socials and our website are in the description of this episode. I want to thank Mr. Barry Kirby for being on the show today. Where can our listeners go and find you if they want to talk? Where to get a burger prepared by a robot? You can find me across all social media but specifically at Twitter, on basilsko kit some of my interviews when I actually get some new ones published at twelve. Two Podcast.com. As for me, I've been your host, Nick Rome. You can find me on our discord and across social media at nickrome. Thanks again for tuning into human factors cast. Until next time.

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Barry Kirby

Managing Director

A human factors practitioner, based in Wales, UK. MD of K Sharp, Fellow of the CIEHF and a bit of a gadget geek.