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July 15, 2022

E251 - Grandma, Relax, it's Just a Robot

This week on the show, we talk about how New York State is giving out robot companions to the elderly. We also answer some questions from the community about advice on working with a solution-oriented (rather than needs-oriented) product team, what to expect from an entry level human factors job interview, and talk about the acceptable number of projects to work on at any given point.

#robots #robot #robotics #technology #elderly #elderlycare #seniorcare #healthcare #homecare #seniorliving #eldercare #seniors #aging #seniorcitizen #senior #oldage


Recorded live on July 14th, 2022, hosted by Nick Roome with Barry Kirby.

Check out the latest from our sister podcast - 1202 The Human Factors Podcast -on HF in Rail - An interview with David Golightly:

 

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Transcript

 

Welcome to Human Factors cast your weekly podcast for Human Factors Psychology and Design.

 

 

We are recording this live at evening, but I realized you could be listening, listening to this whenever. So good morning, good afternoon, good evening. This is episode 251. Like I said, we're recording this live on July 14, 2022. This is human factors. Cast I'm your host, Nick Rome. I'm joined today, as always, by Mr. Barry Kirby. Hey there. I hope you're well. There he is. Oh shoot, are we delayed? We got a great show for you tonight. We're going to be talking about how New York State is giving out robot companions to the elderly. We're also going to be answering some questions from the community about advice on working with a solution oriented rather than needs oriented product team. What to expect at an entry level Human Factors job interview. And we'll talk about the acceptable number of projects to work on at any given point. But first I want to know what's going on over at twelve two. Barry? Yes, as I mentioned last week, we've had the current episode that is now live, is really based on that link between academia and the rail industry. With an interview with David Golliley. He's electorate at Newcastle University and works in the field of cognitive ergonomics. We talked about the projects he's been involved with across the rail industry. And what has been really good is the strong emphasis not only on passenger experience, as we kind of expect, but actually the complexity of the rail industry, including freight and what they do in rail yards and things. It's such a key factor to understand from a human perspective. So that was really interesting. Coming up next week, next Monday is a discussion with the Royal Air Force Safety Center, which is told by the application of just culture, which is something I've talked about before on the podcast. But this is really interesting looking from that military perspective. So it will be taken around that idea of just culture, what it means in the military context, and really what the benefits are for an organization looking at just culture. So yeah, it's been an interesting few weeks. I've actually got interviews coming out of my ears and I can't wait to get some of this content out. Awesome. I'm so looking forward to it. But I think we all know why everyone's here. They're here for the news, right? So let's do it.

 

 

That's right. It's human factors news. This is the part all about exactly that, human Factors news. Barry, what is the story this week? So the story this week is where New York State is giving out hundreds of robots as companions for the elderly. And this is around an estimated 14 million Americans and over 2 million people in the UK over the age of 65 currently live alone. And this figure is projected to increase over the next decade as the boomer generation ages. Studies have suggested that long term loneliness is as damaging to an individual's health as smoking. To help alleviate the issue, the New York State Office for Aging Nyso FA will distribute Leq units from institution robotics to the homes of more than 800 older adults. The robots are not able to help with physical tasks, but function more as a proactive version of digital assistance like Siri or Alexa, engaging users in small talk, helping contact loved ones, and keeping track of health goals like exercise and medication. Some studies suggest social robots do appear to have the potential to improve the wellbeing of older adults. But critics warn that machines have the potential to dehumanize their users, and their deployment reflects a low value society places on older adults. In New York State, a new experiment is just beginning. So, Nick, what are your thoughts on your loan companion when you are older, being a slightly cleverer, smart speaker? Are you okay over there, Barry? Because it sounds like you maybe didn't write that blurb today. I'm okay. I think in theory, I like the idea of using human robot interaction to assist those that are lonely, right. Especially in some of these vulnerable populations like the elderly. Realistically, I don't necessarily agree with the critics on their sort of assessment here about dehumanizing their users, but I do wonder, realistically, whether or not that this generation, specifically of elderly folks who didn't really necessarily come of age with these types of technological advances or anything like that, will really adopt this willingly en masse. Right. Is this going to be something that is foreign? You're inviting this thing into the home, and it's especially scary. I know, for some older folks, to me, there's a lot of things that we got to work through. But again, all this stuff is specific to this current generation and maybe upcoming. But beyond that, I think we're good, right? And so? I don't know. Those are my initial thoughts. Barry, what are you thinking? So I've got kind of almost three aspects of this. Firstly, truly, what is loneliness? When you look at it and turn around and say, is the loneliness part of you? So you just feeling that you can talk to somebody and all that type of stuff, and therefore you have an interaction, that loneliness aspect is within you, or does it have to have two people there to make it, to dispel it? So if we can prove and I don't know if there's been much research into this side of things, I think it's quite interesting. So you can actually, if it can be done, if it's just the fact that you're talking to some thing and get that reaction brilliant, then that works. I think the point you make around will the current generations do this? I think we've spoken before around the idea of digital native, digital immigrants, and that's everything. This is definitely a digital native solution. So those people who are growing up now with using chat bots, using the Internet in the way that they are now, using them in a second nature approach. It will almost seem like the right approach. We've seen this time and time again, using simulation for training, using smart games, things like that, where the digital natives come out. It is something that will just become second nature. So fundamentally, taking them two things together, it probably is a long term solution. But how we go back to that question I saw at the beginning, just loneliness. The cure for loneliness require two people to solve it? Or is it just the fact that that resides within you and you talking to something, getting a bit of feedback for you to react to, then that cures loneliness? I don't know. My jury is still out at the moment. I think it's kind of solving the symptom, but not doing the cure thing. Yeah. Maybe we'll get harder to write a song about what is loneliness.

 

 

All right, so look, there's a lot of ways in which we can cut this story. I want to talk, I think, about the thread that you just introduced, the social aspect of loneliness and what that actually means. And really what we're talking about here is communication between a human and a robot. This is human robot interaction. And really, this is from the article here, intuition Robotics. They claim that this LLQ I'm not sure if I'm saying that right. It's E-L-L-I-Q is how you spell this robot's name. I think that's right. They say it can project empathy and form bonds with users. That's a pretty strong claim. And to support that claim, they come up with a couple of other things. The robot is supposed to remember key details about a user's life and shape its character to their own. It'll crack more jokes if the user tends to laugh a lot, for example. And what if they need to laugh more, right? Does it crack jokes to make them laugh? Or is it because they're laughing anyway? It might just be a phrasing issue. And then media reports suggest that the robot can certainly endear itself to people. It's been in development for many years and there's dozens of home trials that have been done to test the functionality and hone it in. Like you said, though, Barry, the real test will be sort of when this is wide scale, we're talking 800 plus homes in New York. So, thinking about the issues with human robot interaction, how that relates to loneliness, there's definitely the question of yes, is this going to be sufficient enough to replace social interaction with another human being? I certainly don't think so at this point. But, you know, in the future, probably, maybe we'll see, especially as conversations with AI and chatbots get more and more advanced. The one thing that I do want to bring up that I think we might have overlooked is, will this allow for further social connection with peers that are also not digital natives? Do they have robots too, in this 100 group? And will this help them connect to other humans by introducing a common group of robot owners? I'm just imagining the Facebook comments on that group, truly wild. But that's kind of my thought. Maybe there's another way to approach this, that you sort of build a community around having this strange thing in your home. And that could be one way for socialization. So that's interesting. So I guess we do have that at the moment, because your smart speaker, if you give it the right sort of access and privileges and stuff and stuff like that, then you can not only talk between speakers within the home, but you can also connect it to friends, family or whatever, their speakers, and you can drop in or call their speakers. So I guess that's a similar approach. We've only done that with one person on our smart speaker system and that's my in laws, and I've tried everything I can to stop them from doing it. But I guess, yeah, you're right, you'll create that social group, but this organization social element links really nicely with two other episodes that we've done previously. Firstly, the last episode around the sentient AI with Google. And whether you think that that AI is sentient or not or it's just really good. It's got loads of phrases in order to be able to make you think having a conversation. And also when we did a while ago around having the girlfriend, the AI as a girlfriend or a partner type thing on your phone, which is something we have a look at as well. Barry beta tested it, I think we both did, if I recall correctly. Look, I was yelling at her on the show. I mean, come on. Anyway, I'm still talking to her, still talking to mine.

 

 

The point with this is that just because, again, you're getting them sort of interactions, yes, it makes you laugh and things like that, but you're not having a true conversation. Whilst you can get empathy for that type of thing, and we've seen with apps and stuff, you can get that level of empathy. I mean, that bloke tried to get engaged, all that sort of stuff. You've seen people in other countries marry robots and things like that. Great. So you do get that level of empathy. And maybe that says more about us as humans, about how we reflect that empathy and that type of thing. But I still don't know. I think the interesting bit here from a human practice is how do we measure that? What tests, what trials do we run with that? Cohort that audience of 65 and above? Because actually, the other thing that I guess in organization social, when smacking my mic with a pen there, whilst we focused here on the elderly generation, there's also those people who are housebound, who are under that age group for whatever reason. It could be physical disability, they could be just living on their own for whatever. But also mental health reasons. People who don't want to go outside because the outside world is scary and they want to stay inside in their own bubble. There more reclusive tendencies or anxiety, claustrophobia? No. agraphobia, wouldn't it sort of thing, so a lot younger, but actually don't want to go outside for other reasons. How do we work with them to actually get true measures about whether this is actually doing some good stuff or not? I honestly don't know the answer to that, but I think there's some cool bits to look at. Do you mind terribly if I bounce over to the human practice engineering? Because I think the actual engineering side of things, this is either really interesting or really disappointing. Depend on which way you look at it. Let's do it. Yeah. Go see if we talk through the design of this thing. So we sort of alluded the fact it's an enhanced smart speaker and if you go and look at the article, it's got a photo of it and the link to the article is in the show notes. But effectively it consists of two bits. The first, it's got a lamp like face on it and that's got the microphone and the speakers and that lights up and swivels to engage with who it's talking to. Now, thinking for that bit that allows it to be called a robot because it's got that articulating bit, I've got a problem with whether it truly could be defined as a robot or not. They have a touch screen tablet beside it and that allows you to display photos. That's where you do the calling, like video calls. And apparently from the article, it says the unit has been deliberately designed to appear more robotic than humanoid in order to better focus attention on the conversational abilities. Yeah, I just kind of think with this that maybe I'm just getting hung up on technicalities here, but I don't think that's a robot. I think a robot has to do a bit more than that. It is a glorified smart speaker with a tablet beside it. But fine. We're jumping on certain bandwagon here. I think it's still performing the tasks that it's going to perform. But is that enough? Is it just so big and cumbersome? Because it's not just them two bits. It seems to sit in a triangular base, which if you're elderly and maybe got hand grip problems, things like that, to be able to engage with the tablet, the touch screen tablet and things like that. Has it got everything there? It just doesn't it feels like they've taken a smart speaker and a tablet, smashed them together onto a base and said, oh, look, we've got a new system. It doesn't feel like it's been engineered for the target audience. No, they're taking something that exists and they're throwing it into the homes as a trial. Right. And ultimately down the line. Yes. We can see how this will impact if we were to make adjustments that were designed specifically for that population, specifically with their needs tailored. Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree with that. Whether or not it's a robot, I'm not going to get lost in that technicality. We're still talking about issues that impact an aging population with technology and some sort of intervention. Right. And so I'm not too worried about what we're calling the thing. Yeah, it's not a robot, but let's relax, it's just a robot. I did a call back to the title, like we did. Yeah, that's good.

 

 

I just say this is a trial, so we will hopefully get feedback from that trial and see. But again, it would be really good to get into the nuts and bolts, that trial of how are they getting the feedback from the participants and what measures are they using, what tools and techniques? This is probably one of the first stories in quite a while that I've wanted to always get in touch with them and say, right, this sounds really interesting, really keen to I just want to know more. I want to know about more about how you actually do that, or you just going to put them in and say, we've given you this free robot. Do you like it? Which would be disappointing if they did just that. If only you hosted a podcast where you interviewed people. I mean, that would really solve the problem. Yeah, maybe we should think about that's. A good idea for me to launch my own thing.

 

 

There's a couple of other concerns I've got with this as well. It kind of falls more under the safety and health bit. So this exists, it's a mix between the engineering and the actual application. So it exists to engage right. Also with the target audience it's aimed at. It's there to presumably alert if something goes wrong. So if the person falls or maybe has an issue or something like that, it would use its capabilities to realize that there's something happening, there's something there which is brilliant. That is something that is really common, particularly in sheltered housing, monitored housing, assisted living. That would be fantastic. And to do that. But what happens if it doesn't? What happens if we get into a situation where somebody has a fault it doesn't recognize it doesn't recognize that fault happened? They're laid decorated people think that, oh, they've got the robot in the home, they're perfectly safe, they're brilliant, we don't need to worry about it. Is a lapse like that acceptable? And the analogy here is actually what we're seeing now with particularly Tesla cars and Tesla using their fully autonomous systems, people are calling out the old one or two instances where it's not working compared to what we've got at the moment. And you'll be able to see how it would affect adoption. If you have one thing that suddenly makes the press of we put a robot in a home and it didn't recognize that my grandma fell over and she became ill because of it or whatever, how that affects technology adoption. So that's a bit of a social issue as well. I want to riff on adoption because there's a couple of things that I want to bring up. One, I've been critical, rightfully so, of whether or not elderly folk would adopt a technology like this. Now, I do want to say that this study does kind of compensate for that in some ways and we can talk about that, but then there's a wider issue of how do you get this technology adopted widespread. So let's talk about what's actually going on here, what the criteria for selection in this experiment is. Right, so there's obviously a bunch of logistics with delivery setup and training and we can talk about training for how to set up the use and how to use the robots. That's a whole separate human factor's issue. But basically the case managers will identify individuals who might benefit from LQ based on a few criteria. And those criteria are this. It's designed for people who are aged 75 and older, who have access to Wi Fi and are comfortable with tech equipment and who are isolated and lonely. So those are the criteria. Although I do want to know more about what that criteria for comfortable with heck equipment is, because do they mean like a TV or do they mean like wearables? What examples do they provide in that selection criteria that would allow for an aging population to self select into something like this? Right? So I want to mention that they are trying to, I guess, account for that. Once individuals kind of have been identified as being a target group, then they'll kind of work with them to provide installation and training. I would love to know more about that process as well. What does it actually look like to go to the homes of these 800 individuals? Are you doing it individually? Are you as a researcher doing this individually or are you sending out a group that has some sort of training to train the people, training for the trainers also, what does the physical space look like is going to be different for every single person that they go to? You might have some that are in similar units, but that introduces the question for me of the ergonomic perspective. Where do you place it physically in this environment that is going to be best for this person? Are these people that are putting it into the homes, these case managers and whoever else presumably is going out, are they trained in a way to look for the ideal location within their environment that is going to have the optimal effect? And how do you control for that in an experiment. You can't really the reason I know this is because I've actually done something very similar, gone out to people's homes and installed a technology device that measured out electricity consumption and compared it with your neighbors. I've done this process. I know what this is like. It's like a huge logistical nightmare because you have to schedule with 800 people and then you have to look at where we accounted for it. Is the kitchen on a countertop? That was where we put it. So there's a lot of things going on with that that I just have questions about and I want to know more. You're right, Barry. This is like a huge question. I'm really interested. Right. Anyway, that's a couple of points that I wanted to make with the adoption. The last point is that if you do have those, let's say this is successful and you expand it out to others in that demographic who are historically or stereotypically, I should say less than savvy with technology, how can we approach adoption? And it might be in the form of making this robot a different form. They mentioned that they took care to make sure that this device was designed to look like a robot and not like a human for the impact of being able to have a conversation with it. But there's these robot dogs that are out there that are toys. What if you like, I don't know, old people love dogs, right? So why don't you give them a robot dog that does all the same things and maybe that would give that solve their loneliness. Now I'm even thinking this is not even in the notes, but what if you gave them a robot dog that behaved, acted and was as faithful as a regular dog or animal, whatever. It doesn't have to be a dog, a cat, a snake, I don't know to their preference. But then maybe that's all they need. If they don't, you know, another living being, life isn't on the line if something happens to them or they forget to feed them or something along those lines, you get the companionship of an animal without the responsibility of needing to take care of a real animal. You just plug it in or if it gets low, it goes and Moses over to the charger. It does it itself. So anyway? I don't know. That's just a couple of points on adoption that I wanted to make. I think that's all fair, I guess. The other bit, and it alludes back to stuff we have talked about in the past, but this is a different context, is what is your relationship with the device in that? There's been studies done around the smart speaks and stuff and it's a subservient relationship. You're asking questions, you're making demands, you're tasking it and things like that. Can you have a relationship that will cure loneliness? So that's the primary function is to provide companionship? Can you have a companionship relationship with the subservient device. So if this device is there and it will help with some tasks, some basic tasks, some monitoring and things like that, presumably you would still and again, we might have to drop these people an email, I think, because is it a bit like a smart speaker where it's keyword driven. Hilliq how are you feeling today? You start having them conversations and then LQ come back saying, Hi, barrier, it's time for you to take your blood pressure medication. How you feeling today? Is it that sort of transactional relationship, or is there scope there? I mean, I can see a whole lot of potential bounce through with this of, well, the two applications. One, as it gets more intelligent, as it gets more AI, potentially as it gets more senses, it could understand the health situation of the person it's with. And then if it sees a deviation in heart rate or some measure that it's doing, you could actually then check in and say, actually, are you feeling okay? Do we need to call the doctor and have that sort of transactional route? The other bit, which, again, is not in the notes because we're all freestyling tonight, was if you have this in a care home and you had one in everybody's room, could it track patients who are residents who go from room to room and actually see identify the differences between them in order to be able to track a whole bunch of restance through that way? It might be a stretch, but it would be an interesting take on that. And again, it's interesting that kind of both of us have done it to a certain extent. We've kind of immediately almost moved away from just the loneliness aspect to the value add to the health monitoring to all that sort of stuff. When, again, you go back, the primary use for this is to cure loneliness. Well, I mean, it's for good reason, Barry. We veer away from just loneliness because there's, I guess, a bunch of other issues with aging, right? There are studies that suggest that 20% of people age 55 years or older would experience some sort of mental health issue, right? Most commonly, it'd be things like anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, mood disorders, like depression, bipolar. But then loneliness is also part of that, I guess, cocktail of aging issues. I hate to call them issues, but there are concerns, right, or there are areas of we can solve this or we can work on this. And I want to go back to kind of a point that you were making about using AI to kind of make decisions around the health. I think this will have huge healthcare applications, and this would help with some of those conditions that we talked about just now, right? Especially as it could understand what symptoms of each of those conditions might look like if it's monitoring. It could also proactively call for intervention if it senses something is going to happen, like call an ambulance when as soon as you see them fall down the stairs, don't even wait for them to get up because it's not going to be great. And so there's like other things that those can do from a health care perspective that's going to be really impactful for quality of life in the aging population. And so the last kind of point as you talk about AI, would these help with decision making tasks or are they mostly meant for memory AIDS? And this is kind of along the same points that you were driving with, are you okay? That's kind of the decision making aspect where maybe an artificially intelligent system built into these robots could potentially ask about, hey, I've noticed it's been a while since you had a bottle of water. Are you thirsty? And help with that passive care, those subtle nudges. You could also ask it, would it be able to help assist in those decision making tasks? Like, I don't know, I need help deciding what to watch. I don't know. That's a very simple example, but would it be able to provide those types of things or is it just meant for memory AIDS? Like, did I take my medication today? Or when was the last time I called my grandson? Or those types of questions. So I don't know. That's kind of a couple of extra points that I wanted to bring up. You got anything else? Yeah, I guess one last point to finish out from my side, I think, is this is a Western problem. So this is a cultural Western problem around, and it says it in the sub headline on it, a New Way to Address the West Loneliness Epidemic. And with cultural work I've done in the past, there is a big difference in the way that the Eastern culture, middle Eastern culture engages with the elderly part of their community, which is very different to how we deal with it in the west. And maybe we reaching for a technological solution when there is actually a sociological solution there that could actually solve this. We just don't want to address that. So, yeah, I just think it's interesting that we're solving a problem that is a cultural problem, not just an aging problem. Patch it with technology, it'll be fine. Thanks to our patrons this week for selecting our topic and thank you to our friends over at The Verge for our news story this week. If you want to follow along, we do post the links to the original articles on our weekly roundups in our blog and also join us on Discord for more discussion on these stories. We're going to take a quick break, and 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 hosts break down unique, obscure and interesting Human Factors topics in just 1 minute. Patreon rewards are always evolving, so stop by Patreon.com Humanfactors Cast 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 patron Michelle Tripp. Patrons like you keep the show running. Like I mentioned before we went to the break, our patrons do choose the news. We do post a public poll where everyone can put in their two cent about what they want to hear about on the show. But I do want to call special attention to our patrons because they get a little bit more of the vote share. In fact, the exact split is 80 20. So public gets about 20% of the vote share. Our patrons do the most of the deciding the news stories. So if you are financially able and want to support the show, that does support not just it doesn't go to my pocketbook, it doesn't go to Barry, it actually goes to our entire lab. We use it to pay for the tools that we use. So if you're watching us live, this whole nice set up, this is because of patrons. So anyway, I just want to bring that up. I think it's time that we get into

 

 

that one was good. Let's switch gears, get to it came from this is the part of the show where we search all over the internet to bring new topics the community is talking about. Find any of these answers useful? Give us a like wherever you're watching or listening to help other people find this content. We have three tonight. The first one up here is by Responsible fruit one on the UX Research subreddit. They ask about advice on working with a solution oriented rather than a needs oriented product team. On the right, I'm a research team of one and currently working with a large product team that's focused on features and solutions rather than the customer needs we're trying to solve for. Research gets looped in after the product team has already begun developing the solution. One of the asks I received recently was, we're building this new capability now we need to find some users or use cases this can solve for trying to orient the product and design teams towards a more user problem centric approach. By collecting some of our questions and assumptions around the problem space, but it's been challenging to really hone in and narrow down scope. I'm not sure how much of this is culture in my team or my own gaps in skill and approach. I'm probably a combination of the two, but I'm hoping to find a way to navigate this better with limited resources I have. Has anyone experienced a team structure like this or have any advice on how to better navigate and align teams? Are researchers usually tasked with breaking down silos and constantly facilitating conversations between teams? I'm exhausted. Hey. Exhausted. I am too. Barry, is this common welcome to my world on a day to day basis? Yeah, this is the job, I'm afraid. Well, it's not the entire job. I would say this is more human factor stuff. I don't like differentiating between human factors and UX type things, but this is typical work for a human factor practitioner. I think it's where we have the massive amount of value. If I'm honestly doing some working in large engineering projects, I don't think this is just common defense. I think it is across the board where you get large groups of people who are coming along with we've got a solution, we just need to find the problem and driving that sort of stuff going forward. Generally, how do you do it better? I think, to be honest with the way you're describing it, you're doing a good job. I think that's the sort of stuff that we get up to. Particularly that bit of down breaking down the silos. That is if we get that bit right. That is absolutely where we provide value because we are really one discipline. I guess. Alongside project management. But people hate us less than project managers. Where you can go and you've got legitimate reason and excuse to go and talk to the every part of the project and then go. Oh. Have you spoken to Mary and engineering? Have you spoken to Bob in design and bring them connections together. It's exhausting, but is massively rewarding as well. So, yeah, welcome to the day job. Welcome to the team. Welcome to the team. I mean. Like. Seriously. That is the job and it can be exhausting and this is. I guess. Not a word of caution. But something to be aware of if you are considering going into this field. Is that you are constantly at an uphill battle of trying to bridge these gaps and trying to communicate with various teams because it's not just one thing that makes a product go. You have to talk with your product managers that sort of determine the requirements for something. You have to talk to the users that obviously will drive, that will have needs and wants and frustrations with whatever it is that you're trying to do. Whether that's a product process, procedure, it doesn't matter. There's going to be user needs, there's going to be engineering needs, there's going to be requirements, there's going to be business goals, there's going to be constraints from all those perspectives as well. So you're going to have engineering constraints, you're going to have design constraints, you're going to have time constraints is another big one. And so when you have all this going on, to loop it back to the question here we have all this going on that often creates a scenario where I guess Human Factors is being applied more reactive to the state of things going and less proactivity with trying to get ahead of some of those issues in the future. And I've always thought my job as a researcher, human factors practitioner, has always been to try my best to get ahead of that curve, get everybody else on board and say, hey, look, this is where the train is going. I guess train is not necessarily a great analogy for this because it's on rails. This is where the boat is going. Can we shift five degrees to the left so we don't hit those rocks? So really that's kind of what I'm trying to do in my role, is let's get as far to the left of this as we can so that way we can better plan in the future. And that transition is slow and that transition is difficult, especially if you need buy in from others. But communication is key. Anyway. That's my two cent. Anything else on that one, Barry? Yes, I guess both of us were giggling to a certain extent about the way that this probably evolved. I think it's important to point out I wasn't giggling at you. I think it's more the point that we recognize the situation so dramatically for what it is. We spend a lot of time assume Fox practitioners firefighting when we know that the way you've described the problem is the way we would look to solve the problem if it was bought in right at the beginning, done the way that we would like to see it done. Yes, you get that more user centric problem solving, but we know in reality that actually we do end up doing exactly what you describe and we end up firefighting to solve the problem. So we're all there. We're all rooting for you and come back and find us if you need some more advice on how to move on. Yeah, I mean, I will say some places get close.

 

 

All right, this next one here is from the Human Factor subreddit. Love it when we get one from there. This is my ultimate cookie wizard. Love the username, too. What should I expect from an entry level Human Factors job interview? Hill I have an interview coming up. The company mainly works on transport. What should I prepare for? So usually a technical test or interview in the process. Should I study up? Thanks. Barry, you conduct interviews with entry level folks. How would you recommend somebody prepare for one of these.

 

 

Okay. Yeah, you hit the button. I'll bring that in. Firstly, you've already highlighted that the company has a specific area of interest. So in this case, transport. But no matter what sort of interview you got into, if you gone into a company that has a specific area, have at least a basic understanding of that study area, of that focus area, and particularly the human factors issues around it, you go for a human factor's job. That means that shows that you've done a bit of research into the field if it's not something that isn't already in your arsenal. Also do a little bit of work, a bit of research around the company itself. So what is their impact into this domain? Are they suppliers of big freight on trains or are they contractors or consultants that work in the area? So understanding the influence that this company has within the domain, in this case on transport, I wouldn't necessarily get too hung about going too deep into that. But you need to have a bit of, I guess, a working knowledge. If they've got a human factors team, then at least be aware of the size make up of that team because then you know kind of what you get into that's good for you. But then also just be prepared to talk about yourself and talk about the sort of things that you've done. If you're just coming straight out of college or university, then nobody can expect you to have the answers to all the issues. What they will be interested in, what I'm interested in is what I'm interviewing people is your take on a problem. So it's quite conceivable. They might turn around and say, oh, well, we've got this issue. What are your thoughts on a solution? And things like that. And just be prepared to talk through what you think. They're probably interested in the way that not only what your answer is, but the way you approach it as well. If they're any good, then they would actually give you a structure about what they expect the interview to go like. So they'll give you a bit of a heads up. One, two or three people in the room, for example. Are they expecting to do a presentation? If so, what's the presentation on? If they're not, don't give you that. Don't be afraid to ask. It isn't a test as such. It's a discussion about and you both get to size each other about whether the company is right for you and you're right for the company. Nick, what do you think? How do you interview people for entry level jobs? I think it's really sneaky that you ask people to solve your problems for you in the interview process. And I don't like that. Mr. Barry Kirby I don't like that at all. I ask people to solve problems that are not related to the domain at all.

 

 

My experience from that was I got asked to do that when I was going for a graduate job. And it was interesting that there was a panel of three people and this one guy said and it was actually not that it wasn't a human factor job, actually it was an AI knowledge based systems job. And they turned around and said, oh, we trying to do this. How would you solve the problem? And I was like, Well, I would take this approach and do this 21 at the time, and something like that. Well, I do this and sketch it. That's interesting. Can you put that on the board? Okay. And then it turns out that these two of the interviewers have been having a route prior to my thinking about whether you should take an AI approach or a knowledge based systems approach to the solution. I go down knowledge based systems approach because I prefer knowledge based systems at the time. So one guy was very smoking. Yes, that's what I would do as well. And I didn't like that. But I have seen it happen in other things. It's not something we do. I do ask questions, but I'll do that as something about what we use as a random question. Mary, I was giving you a hard time. Look, it's okay to ask those questions at a surface level of like, hey, generally what would be your approach to this problem? Don't ask people to solve it anyway. We're getting on the other side of things for the interviewer. What you can expect in an interview I think is going to widely depend on it depends. Again, it's going to vary based on where you're applying to what the position is. In this case, I think all the points that Barry brought up are solid. I think do some research. I think that's a general good point of advice. Do some research on understanding what they do. You're not expected to be an expert or subject matter expert, even for the domain. If you are, it helps in some ways, but maybe not others. Barry and I have talked on the show many times about how we believe innovation is bringing things from other domains in anyway. They're not going to expect you to know that your job is to ever learn in this position, to understand the users. And so with that in mind, an interview can vary in structure and

 

 

format. But I think the things that remain consistent is, yes, this is an opportunity to understand fit and it is a two way street and make sure that you remember that in your role too. They are not only evaluating you and you're in a position of vulnerability here. If you don't have a job or don't have current employment, it makes it a little bit more vulnerable for you to sort of evaluate them critically, but do understand what it would mean for you if you were to take a job at that place. Otherwise you're going to end up years down the line going, why did I do this? So anyway, that's my two cent. I don't really have much else to add to what Barry said. We got one more here. This one. How many projects do you work on at any given point as a UX researcher or human factors engineer? This one's from the UX research subreddit by Sirness six you say? Hello fellow researchers. I'm curious how many concurrent projects you typically work on per month? One a month, two a month, three even? How many is typical for a 160 hours work week a month. Thanks Barry. How many projects do you work on a month?

 

 

I'm on eight this month. Six of them are external and two of them are internal. And that's probably about average for me. But I'm managing them as well as working on them as well. I think for one of my team they're probably 12340f them. I would say three, four a month is probably on a good average for us. What about unique? How many do you hit up? I'm right there with you with eight, Barry. In fact, I think this month I had ten because I didn't even consider the self projects of infrastructure I was considering user projects, right. So I have eight different threads going on. And I also have a couple of things internally that I'm working on for myself. But again, in a more junior role, I should say not lower, that is derogatory. In a more junior role, I was working on maybe two to three to four, depending on the place. But then I've also worked on just one and I focused all my time on that one thing. And those were nice. Those are really nice. My attention wasn't really nice for someone with the ability to focus on something. So anyway, that's my two cent. It's really nice to focus on that thing. But yeah, I don't know right now tenish, but eight user facing, and we talked about this in another answer the other week of these things are in various states and so it's not like I'm doing the same thing for each of these projects. I'm not talking to 80 different users in one week. I'm evaluating something on one thing and I'm wrapping up something else in a brief on another part of it and I'm scheduling on another thing and then I'm interviewing on it. So there are different parts and pieces that you could be working on. I would say comfortable is three to four. Any other thoughts? I just come them up and then I guess the flip side I do as a manager and business leader of the winning business as well. And so I've just had a quick look and I've got six projects on the go that are business winning projects. So they're not doing the Uxi work that is trying to you still have to do a level of analysis and stuff in order to be able to convince the lead, to convince the person with the money that I'm the best person to give the money to and be able to live the project. Obviously,

 

 

I've done one job where I was focused on one thing and I got bored

 

 

inside. There was a lot to learn, high, ramp up, all that sort of stuff. But I like having at least two projects on the go because when you start to get drained on one, you can bait and switch. And I can really manage my work really well that way. So I like juggling a few projects. Some people don't. Some people like having a single project and rolling on it. And I think that almost goes back to the question before as well. If you find a job that you really like and the way that they manage your work, that's worth things, personal life and the way that you live in mental health and things like that. Are we trying to out project each other? Because I didn't even count everything that I do for the podcast, which I don't get paid for, by the way. That's all like volunteer work. I'm in DispatchAs. Yeah, okay. All right. No, you probably will. All right, stop there. Actually, you know what? I do a lot for human factors. Maybe we should add them up. I don't know. All right, let's just get into this last part of the show. One more thing needs no introduction. It's where we talk about one more thing. Barry, what is your one more thing this week? Well, mine is around. We just talked about it in terms of mental health and things like that. And what I've been late to the year in doing this year is founded last year, sea swimming. So while swimming up and water swimming, whatever you want to call it, we are lucky. We live very close to the coast and there's a beautiful bit down in place called Berryport where they got a nice little bit and it was so nice to have to be in really hot weather and it was really nice to break out the office and go down there and for little to no effort. Normally when you go to swimming pool, you have to go and get you have to pay to get in. You have to find a cubicle, you have to go through all that stress. This was you just walk up to the beach and straight into the water and spend I think we're in there about maybe half an hour through quarter. You don't have to spend that long because you don't feel like you are having to spend a defined period of time in there. It's just so nice and you're just out there and good fun. So, yes, I totally recommend it, assuming the water wherever you're around. But you can do rivers, lakes, anything like that if you're looking up to live somewhere near some of the water and providing it safe to do so no crocodiles or anything like that. Then give it a go if you haven't tried it. I think something like 90% of the cities in the world are around water, so there's probably something for somebody. Yeah. Look, Barry, I'm still having a really hard time deciding which one of these I want to talk about, but I think I'm going to talk about Hot Wheels track for everyone's awareness. I have like four or five one more things written down that I'm trying to pick anyway. Hot Wheels track. So let me talk about Hot Wheels. My son is at an age where he loves Hot Wheels. Hot Wheels are awesome. This is not sponsored by Hot Wheels in any way, shape, or form, but with Hot Wheels, they have the fun, cool tracks that you can build and put together. And in a lot of cases, it's really boring because the fun pieces are expensive and hard to find, like turns, right? And it's not like we've gotten in the play sets and the playsets are fine, but they frustrate him. He's still young enough to where he can't do it reliably. He needs our help, and so that's frustrating for us. And so we wanted something easily we could set up. And so I thought, okay, last weekend I went out and bought some wooden planks, and I got some 3D printed pieces to anchor the Hot Wheels track in just a way. And I 3D modeled a gate that now has his name on it, his name Racing. And it's alliteration anyway, it's nice. And then I went out and bought another track that has multiple lanes on it so the cars can kind of pass each other. But the problem with that is that they're compatible with the Hot Wheels track, but then also it's hard to get them to come back together into one. And so I've been trying to model some 3D prints to make it. And then the track that the multi lane also comes with is like, weird on the corners. And so I've modeled another 3D piece to basically link up those edges so that way it's not going to catch the edge and spin out and frustrate my son. Anyway, I spent a lot of time 3D printing and modeling and working on Hot Wheels track over the last week. And so I'm not going to have a lot to talk about at the Lab meeting tomorrow. But it's all in an effort to make this fun for my son and make it less frustrating for him in the long run. And it's just something about seeing his face light up when I've come through with a new piece. And he's like, oh, where does that go? Right? What are we doing with that? And he doesn't quite understand that I'm the one that made those pieces yet and have put in that effort yet. But it's so rewarding just to see him happy when something that was previously an issue, like Catching On a sidewall, is no longer an issue because of something that I thought up, I modeled, and I've put into reality. This is an amazing experience. Would highly recommend it for anyone. Anyway, that's it. Cool. All right, well, that's it for today, everyone. If you liked this episode and enjoy some of the discussion about everything, there's a couple of episodes that Barry mentioned, but I'll bring out two more here. If you like robots, then maybe listen to how humanoid robots will improve your life. If you want to hear more about aging, then maybe what cognitive abilities improve as we age. Those are episodes 217 and 218, respectively. Comment wherever you're listening on what you think of the story this week. For more in depth discussion, you can always join our Discord community. Visit our official website. Sign up for our newsletter. Stay up to date with all the latest news. If you like what you hear, you want to support the show, there's a couple of things you can do. One, like I mentioned earlier, five star reviews really help the show do that. That's free for you to do. Two, tell your friends about us. Word of mouth really helps us grow. And three, patrons choose the news, baby. If you have some financial means, why don't you help us choose some news stories? As always, links to all of our socials and our website, or in the description of this episode. Barry Kirby, thank you for being on the show today, working on our listeners go and find you if they want to talk about getting old. Yes, that's definitely on my head down at the moment. So feel free to come and talk to me about getting old on Twitter and across social media. If you want to hear me come do some interviews, then I'm on Twelve or Two Humanfacts podcast, which is Twelve or Two Podcast.com. Sorry, that was too good to pass up. As for me, I'm your host, Nick Rome. You can find me on Discord and across social media at nickrome. Thanks again for tuning in to Humanfactors Cast. Until next time ends.

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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.