ACAVA Studios: Spode Works Open Studios With Bitjam

28 Sep, 2017

Next weekend at Bitjam we will be opening our doors to the public for the next ACAVA Studios: Spode Works open studios event. Each year a selection of studios welcome members of the public to come and see their work, holding demonstrations and workshops for people to take part in. Bitjam are hosting code workshops to demonstrate coding on a beginner level, so anybody, including children, can join in and learn on the day.

The 43 studios at ACAVA Studios: Spode Works are making a valuable contribution to the development of the Spode site, as a cultural centre for creative industries and the revitalisation of Stoke town. The studios are home to artists of traditional art forms such as painters and ceramicists, but with added contribution from more modern and technological expressions of art such as web developers and graphic designers.

As well as our code workshops, Bitjam are using the open day opportunity to showcase the Spode Works weather station which we’ve developed. The weather station is a digital machine which will tell you the weather conditions and can be found in the Bitjam studio, number 22. We’ve added an audio twist to make it relevant to the area, and the upcoming Stoke for UK City of Culture 2021 bid, by programming the weather station to deliver weather updates in “Stokie” dialect.

Further to our contribution to the city of culture bid, we’ve also been working on a computerised system that uses Stoke regional dialect to create poetry. The system is called ANNA and as part of the open day we’ll be putting our neighbour Fred Phillips to the challenge of creating equally as compelling poetry. We’ll have more details about “Fred Against the Machine”, information about workshop times and how you can help us to develop ANNA in our next blog post, out tomorrow.

ACAVA Studios: Spode Works open studios are next Saturday 7 / Sunday 8 October.


Why Web Accessibility is Important to the NHS

14 Sep, 2017

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect” 

Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

The Fight for Web Accessibility as a Human Right

It’s the mission of the web accessibility initiative (WAI) to provide access to digital information and communication technologies as a basic human right, therefore it’s important that it’s accessible to all.

The web breaks down communication barriers for those living with a disability in the physical world.

However when websites and digital services are poorly designed they exclude people from using the internet, which is the issue we’re going to be addressing in this blog post.

The UK healthcare sector has been adopting digital technology to improve patient services in the last few years. However there are over 6.9 million disabled people registered in the UK, which represents 19% of the working population, and they need to be able to use the same facilities and receive the same experiences as non-disabled. Therefore the NHS has a duty to provide them with continuing appropriate access in order to comply with accessibility policies.

Better Web Accessibility would Improve Unemployment

In the world today, over a billion people are registered as having a disability according to the World Health Organization.

Focusing on delivering such technology to a high quality standard could potentially benefit the UK economy also, as it could help an additional million more disabled people into work. According to disability charity Scope the UK economy would grow 1.7%, or £45bn.

It’s the responsibility of all web providers, especially those with high volumes of traffic or service providers, to contribute towards reducing discrimination that can occur if a web platform isn’t accessible.

The NHS offer varying text size, colour, PDF accessibility, keyboard navigation and video accessibility across their entire website to ensure patients and users have full use. Their website complies with the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) Level AA guidelines for accessibility and they “remain committed to maintaining and improving the accessibility of their site”. No matter any political decisions or budget cuts etc NHS web accessibility needs to remain a top priority to prevent discrimination.

Similarly, British public service broadcaster institution, the BBC, have “My Web, My Way”, as part of their web service. Their site provides accessibility help, enabling computer users to make the most of the internet whatever their ability or disability. The BBC ensure best practices are followed throughout all of their web pages to reduce discrimination and make their site available to everybody.

Technology is enjoying increasing success in the UK healthcare sector, and the introduction of digital tech that’s tailored to assist those with disabilities is revolutionary for those with physical world conditions. Focusing on continually innovating digital tech and improvements to human interaction services could see huge results and be the driving force behind the development of the NHS.


Chatbots: Evolution of Engagement

1 Sep, 2017

Over the past decade we have seen an exponential growth in technology from the introduction of wireless internet, to smartphones, to nanotechnology. One particularly interesting concept is the channel shift that we are seeing in the ways in which we communicate.

What used to be 1:1 interaction has now led to the use of social media where clients are now able to reach out to businesses and social services at a click of a button. However, Social media is still too much like a broadcast channel where only simplistic interaction take place, with deeper interaction required in sectors such as health and social care. Social media may not be the prime channel to reach out to t

hese services as its publicity and lack of security are not ideal.

Therefore as businesses try to keep up with the advancement of technology, it is important that they do more with less. This is where we need to explore tech like chatbots (e.g. Healthbot’s, Edubot’s) to assist our development into the future.

What Is A Chatbot?

Chatbots are computer programmes that imitate human conversation through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. They range on a spectrum with simplistic bots who only recognise and respond to keywords found in a huge database, to those that incorporate the use of sophisticated Natural Language Processing systems who are very much indistinguishable from humans.

Chatbots provide many functional uses, for example customer service, and are available on a range of major chat platforms including: Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram and even text message.

Chatbots Are Becoming More Commonplace

    • DoNotPay’- A robot lawyer that offers free legal aid to refugees seeking asylum in USA and Canada, helping them to fill out immigrant applications and helping people to apply for asylum support in the UK. This benefits people who might find it challenging to get started and empowers legal aid organisations by assisting with large numbers of clients.
    • Xiaoice A chinese chatbot built by microsoft that speaks to over 20 million people, serving as a ‘friend’. Many see her as a friend, just as they would a real human. The conversations with Xiaoice are so human-like, it creates a new goal for artificial intelligence to make people happier.
    • Poncho – A Weather Forecaster- A funny and witty bot, capable of sending personalised weather and astrological predictions.

Challenges of Chatbots in Healthcare

Chatbots in healthcare may have to make clinical decisions, requiring stringent measures to maintain safety as it would become classified as a clinical device. For example, a healthcare chatbot may suggest when and how much medication to take. This requires professional advice from a doctor and if given incorrectly by a bot, could pose damage to patients. This then becomes a “human error” issue which someone would have to be responsible for.

There are also issues related to the level of trust between bots and patients as their interaction lacks the physicality and the connection created when patients meet 1:1 with their doctors. Therefore, patients may not feel as content or confident with the advice provided to them.

Lastly, should chatbots become successful and common practice in the medical profession, they could replace jobs such as nurses. Human resource could be replaced by artificial intelligence.

Future of Chatbots

As technology continues to advance, so will the intelligence of our chatbots; they will be used more frequently in a larger range of services to the point where in 2020, it is predicted that 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human. Modern chatbots will be able to sustain emotional and in-depth conversations with humans in the same way that humans interact with each other, creating personal connections and serving as practical assistants. Chatbots could become our doctors, accountants, and maybe even our personal stylists and friends.

Bitjam is researching and developing chatbots both in healthcare and education with an early version currently being tested in a healthcare setting. We have developed an early version that uses end-to-end encryption with powerful software behind the bot that allows clinicians to programme the logic required for patients to interact and manage their health. However the key focus here is to allow clinicians to programme the chatbots rather than build an artificial intelligence system to make key clinical decisions.