Gerie Owen and Fiona Charles (UKSTAR talks Day 1, Part 3)

Here is the final blog post for day 1 of the UKSTAR conference. This includes Gerie Owen’s talk on wearable technology and Fiona Charles’ keynote on the positives and negatives of disruptive technologies.

A Wearable Story: Testing the human experience
Gerie Owen

Gerie starts the talk by talking about her experiences while running the Boston Marathon. After completing the gruelling race it was found that her time had not been logged correctly. The chip she was wearing was defective. It is easy to imagine how frustrating this must be for someone who has just run 26 miles.

Gerie uses this story to explain what a wearable is and the importance of ensuring that the user gains some value from a wearable technology. In this example, it is clear that no value was gained from the wearable chip used in the Boston Marathon.

Wearables require some kind of human interaction for value to be achieved. Gerie demonstrates how to set up persona’s that can be used for testing a wearable device. These personas will contain details about the life, goals and expectations of someone who is likely to use the device providing an understanding of their expectations. This information is used to create user value stories.

The best outcome of a user story is one where someone gets value. The worst outcome is where no value is achieved at all.

This is the second time I’d heard Gerie Owen speak. The first time was at the spring 2018 Online Test Conf where she gave another brilliant talk on continuous testing.

Technology’s feet on society’s ground
Fiona Charles

The second keynote, and final talk of the day, was give by Fiona Charles who asks the question: Is ‘disruptive’ a good term?

When it is a good term, it can lead to positive change. However, could lead to unintended negative outcomes. Technology reaches everywhere into society but often reflects and favours the privileged. Biases and discrimination can lead to some of these negative outcomes.

It is common for students to have to receive and submit homework via the internet. This is convenient for both the students and the teachers, but what about students who don’t have access to a computer.

Self service checkouts have led to a more efficient shopping experience for both staff and customers. However this has led to more fruit and vegetables being stored in plastic packaging so it can be scanned easier.

We can now buy items online and return them just as easily. But in a lot of cases the returns are just being sent to landfill. In addition, more parcels mean more delivery vehicles. This has resulted in an increase in traffic congestion.

Fiona also includes some more dangerous examples, like an aircraft which almost crashed because the auto-pilot malfunctioned and the pilot was not able to override it easily. As technology advances, we need to think about how much human intervention should be retained.

There are potential ethical implications of technology, especially as Artificial Intelligence starts to gain prominence. We must question assumptions, biases, objectives and decisions. We must be asking:

  • Should we build this?
  • Is it right to build this?
  • What could go wrong?
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