14 January 2019

Ethics and AI




Just before Christmas I attended the TechUK Ethics & AI conference in London. It was an excellent event with great speakers and an knowledgeable and interesting bunch of delegates. "AI" was being interpreted more as machine learning than conversational AI/virtual humans, but here are a few of the key take-aways:

1) Kate Coughlan of the BBC presented some research they'd done on public attitudes towards AI - showing which areas excited people, and which they were wary of. Overall them seemed more wary than excited. Interestingly the notion of digital immortality came out as one of the few positives!

2) Ethics (AI and other tech) should be about making sure that people are “safe” even if they don’t care or have the time

3) The Royal Society and  Ipsos Mori also doing interesting public attitudes research. The Royal Society found that "only 9% of those surveyed had heard the term ‘machine learning’" - hence the AI catch-all! The Royal Society has also issues an AI Narratives report.

5) The RS presentation included an image from Boyle's notes (see image at top) which showed "extending life" as one of his top priorities - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/7798012/Robert-Boyles-prophetic-scientific-predictions-from-the-17th-century-go-on-display-at-the-Royal-Society.html

6) Luciano Floridi (https://twitter.com/Floridi) was the keynote. He has a useful 5 factor AI Ethics model which is based on a bio-ethics one.:


  • Beneficence (do only good): Promoting Well-Being, Preserving Dignity, and Sustaining the Planet
  • Non-maleficence (do no harm): Privacy, Security and “Capability Caution”
  • Autonomy (of the human, not the AI): The Power to Decide (Whether to Decide)
  • Justice: Promoting Prosperity and Preserving Solidarity (and eliminating discrimination)
  • Explicability: Enabling the Other Principles Through Intelligibility and Accountability

All in all a great day, and certainly going along next year.



3 January 2019

Virtual Route Learning for Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust



A recent study by the Birmingham Community Healthcare (BCHC) NHS Foundation Trust found that after brain injury over 70% of patients reported a reduction in their ability to navigate and this had a major impact on quality of life.  If you take a moment to think about all of the cognitive skills you draw on just for a simple journey, this can become quite a complex task for someone with difficulties in all of those skills. In an outdoor environment we often rely on tall distinctive landmarks to help us build a ‘bird’s eye’ or overhead map of the environment or we use local landmarks such as post boxes or shop fronts that help us learn a route using more of a ‘worms eye’ view. 

Prior research had already shown that people used similar navigation strategies in a VR environment as they did in the real world. So, in order to better understand way finding and route learning in people with acquired brain injury (ABI - e.g. stroke and traumatic brain injury), BCHC asked us to develop a virtual simulation that patients and researchers could use – saving a massive amount of time on outdoor, providing greater control, and reducing risk. We created a network of identical streets lined with typical Victorian terrace housing, and gave researchers the ability to drag and drop distant landmarks (e.g. church spires, tower blocks) and nearby landmarks (e.g. pillar boxes, bus shelters) to create different route finding challenges. The researcher could then mark up the desired route with virtual arrows and let the patient learn the route from the landmarks, and then remove the arrows to see how well they could navigate with only the selected landmarks.

Theresa Powell, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at BCHC reported that they found Daden “very customer centred, checking with us at each stage in the development that it was exactly what we wanted.  None of our very ‘un’ technically phrased questions were ever too much for them and if our build requests went beyond the realms of possibility, they were always able to find an acceptable solution with us.”

The system has generated far more data than BCHC had expected. There are now two Doctoral students, two Masters students and two BSc students who have or are using the software in their research projects. Between them they have so far tested around 20 people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and 30 to 40 controls for various projects.

And the findings so far? One project looking at the impact of contact sports on route learning showed that female American Football players performed worse on recalling certain types of routes than student controls. Another pilot project showed that people with TBI perform worse than controls when only landmarks in the distance were available and BCHC is continuing to gather more data to see if this is supported. Another new project is even combining the virtual route learning app with a fMRI scanner!

18 December 2018

Trainingscapes at the Digital Catapult




We're proud to announce that Daden has been selected as one of only six companies to form part of Digital Catapult’s first Future of Training showcase, which will run from 29th November to 29th March 2018. The Showcase is currently at the London HQ (close to Euston station), but may later head out to their regional offices.

At the showcase we have a PC running with Trainingscapes installed and an Oculus Rift VR kit. We have loaded up an initial set of tutorial and demo exercises and will be adding some new ones in early January (which we can do remotely of course since this is a VR training delivery system not a shrink-wrapped exercise). We're also looking at ways to give visitors a quick guide through the authoring tool which makes Trainingscapes so special.

You can download the Showcase guide and there is also more information about the Showcase and VR Training in general on Digital Catapult website.


7 December 2018

Six Hats Chatbot - Towards a Reflexive Planning Tool


During the summer we were lucky enough to win one of the contracts in the MOD’s Future Fictions/Future Tools challenge, a £138,000 competition from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to find ways of enabling MOD staff to better think through future issues and future scenarios. Daden were one of 11 companies selected for funding from a field of 60 submissions (eight of which were ours!).

The system we proposed, and have now developed, is based around Edward de Bono’s 6 Hats tool, where each hat (or in this case chatbot) represents a different perspective on a problem. By talking to each hat in turn a user is challenged to consider an issue or future scenario from a variety of different perspectives and identify problems or opportunities which may not have otherwise been uncovered. By having the chatbot facilitate a one-to-one session an employee can test ideas before opening them up to a wider audience – and the system can also be used to facilitate a group discussion.

Having used the 6 Hats approach in other contexts we thought it an ideal subject for a “Future Tool” as it brings a rigour of thinking to almost any problem, and can help users come up with new ideas, and identify potential issues, in a very time-efficient way. The order of the hats can also be varied depending on the type of problem or issue being addressed. We have even developed an iterative sequence to help develop future thinking out to 5,10, 20 or more years hence. In development sessions the application has been used to help think through issues ranging from climate change to cyber-attacks and future battlefield technologies.

We’ve always loved the 6 Hats approach, and this was a nice opportunity to embody it within a bot in order to meet a real need and to potentially bring it to a wider audience. The whole Future Fictions/Future Tools programme was also a great way for people to generate new ideas to help Defence think through some of the key challenges of the future.

The application will now form part of Dstl’s Museum of the Future in order to be shown to a wider audience within MOD. We already have plans to further develop the concept, in particular developing it as a mobile application for general business and personal use. This would support a wider range of bots (such as one providing challenges based on common business models such as Porter’s 5 Forces), and allow users to create their own bots. The resultant tool would enable a wide variety of perspectives and different thinking and business models to be used, making it a valuable general-purpose reflexive planning tool.

5 December 2018

AHRC Showcase Event and Virtual Avebury Posters




One Tuesday we were up at the AHRC Showcase in York where most of the projects funded under the AHRC Partnerships for Next Generation Immersive Experiences were presenting on what they had done, and most also had live demos. There was a really good range from "hard" heritage projects like our to far more arts/performance driven work. Ones that particularly caught our eye included:


  • Using 360 video to capture circus acrobats and then "relive" the experience
  • "User Not Found" a drama piece by Dante or Die performed with mobile phone chat interaction about the digital traces we leave and what happens to them after death - plays nicely into our work on Digital Immortality
  • AR work to position old buildings in the right place by having users align a 3D model of existing buildings with the real thing
  • Field scale AR, rezzing an entire roman forum
  • Using laser scanning to capture artworks - but then, in this case, have a fire unfortunately destroy the artworks (pieces in the Mackintosh Museum/Arts School) so that digital form becomes the objects digital immortality and which is then used to spawn AR, VR and 3D printed versions

Prof Liz Falconer presented our project with them, National Trust and Satsymph on Virtual Avebury.



The presentation and demo were very well received, we probably had one of the bigger sample sizes (1000+ all told) and more rigorous assessment methodologies. In the demo area it was great to see funders getting down all all-fours to look at the virtual artefacts lying in the bottom of the henge ditch!




And here are the posters we used that summarise the work and findings of the project.



29 November 2018

Immersive and Digital Business Meet-Up - Birmingham


We were delighted to speak at the ImmerseUK Immersive and Digital Business Meet-Up here at Innovation Birmingham Campus this morning. David spoke about our work in using immersive 3D and VR for a wide variety of projects (over 50!) and some of the lessons we've learnt.

Davids slides are here:



Other notable presentations were:


@VirtualSarahJ telling us how's she's getting bored with how boring #VR is and its time for people to go back to Lanier and the 90s and make it a place of dreams - funny, that's pretty much what SL was/is!



KTN warning about the number people who leave competition submissions to the last moment!


Third Skin (@thirdskinhy) talking about their audio AR/biometric wearable.


And old friend @Taran3D talking about using VR to bring a virtual museum on Sikh history to the people.

A good event, with a good turn-out and some useful chats. In particular how to we get the message to HR and Training Directors and C level corporates - that's what is needed to scale this whole thing up.




23 November 2018

November Newsletter



In this latest issue of the Daden Newsletter we cover:


  • Virtual Route Learning - How we are helping researchers at Birmingham Community Healthcare Trust better understand how Acquired Brain Injury patients can re-learn how to navigate
  • A Reflexive Planning Tool for the MOD - How a short sharp project for the MOD built a chatbot based around De Bono's 6 Hats concept to create a reflexive planning tool
  • World Space Day 2018 - Giving families their first taste of VR by using Fieldscapes to let them stand on Phobos to see a huge Mars above them - on seeing Jupiter from Io! Check our the Blog Post.
  • Second Life Remembered - Daden produce a book (and eBook) celebrating the wide variety of projects we did in Second Life over the past decade! (If you want another trip down memory lane check out our Newsletter from 10 years ago!)


Download and read the pdf newsletter now!