School of Informatics

#6 'Ethics of Assistive Technologies'

Please note: Due to social distancing restrictions as a result of Covid-19, this event will take place online via YouTube

Sixth in a series of public discussion, this event will cover issues around ethical aspects of assistive products.

Watch a recording of the event on YouTube

About the event

From hearing aids, pills dispensers, mobility devices to screen readers and voice recognition software – assistive technology is widely used these days. It allows people to live healthy, productive, independent, and dignified lives.  According to WHO, over 1 billion people worldwide need 1 or more assistive products. By 2030 more than 2 billion people will need at least 1 assistive product due to ageing global population and a rise in noncommunicable diseases.

Artificial Intelligence is poised to provide excellent opportunities for new assistive technologies. There are, however, ethical implications of such technologies. Privacy and ability to give consent are among some controversial issues, along with reducing human contact and contributing to the loss of skills.

Our panel will discuss a broad range of innovations in assistive technology for assisting with physical disabilities, autism and other developmental conditions, long-term neurological conditions such as Parkinson's and dementia, mental health, care in old age and learning difficulties. What are the ethical and design considerations for such assistive technologies? And how will they develop? 

Come and join the discussion.

Organisers' logos

This event is co-organised by EdIntelligence (Machine Learning Society), School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Futures Institute.


Anja Thieme

Anja is a human-computer interaction (HCI) researcher in the Healthcare Intelligence group at MSR Cambridge. Currently, her research explores innovative approaches for applying AI and Machine Learning (ML) in real-world applications. More specifically, her current work (Project Talia) investigates how AI can become a useful vehicle in supporting the quality of care that is delivered through online psychotherapy programs. Taking a human-centred approach, she studies how we can create (clinically) useful, interpretable and actionable ML insights that have the potential to improve the mental health outcomes of people who live with depression and anxiety; and can empower healthcare professionals in their work practices.

Past projects include: user research and interaction design in developing an assistive computer-vision based personal agent for people with vision impairments (Extending Capabilities); the co-design and study of socially inclusive technology that enables collaborative learning experiences for children with mixed-visual abilities (Project Torino, and its commercialized counterpart Code Jumper); and research exploring alternative approaches to configuring digital displays (Disruptive Displays).

For more up-to-date information, visit Anja's homepage

Frank Broz

Frank's research interests are in human-robot interaction, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and planning. He's particularly interested in studying social interaction between humans in order to design and/or learn controllers for human-robot interaction, with a current focus on mutual gaze and other nonverbal behaviours. More generally, he's interested in enabling naturalistic interaction between people and autonomous robots. Researcher on the Socoro Robot project which is creating socially expressive robots for assisting those with Autism.

Before joining Heriot-Watt, he was a research fellow in the Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems at Plymouth University and in the Adaptive Systems Research Group at the University of Hertfordshire. He did my PhD at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. His thesis research was on the design of time-dependent POMDP models to produce policies that allow an agent to interact with people in an appropriate manner in ambiguous socially situated tasks.

Carol Chermaz

Carol Chermaz is a Marie Curie Fellow at the Centre for Speech Technology Research, the University of Edinburgh. Her research is focussed mainly on improving the intelligibility of speech for users of hearing prosthetics in real-world scenarios. A computer science graduate specialised in signal processing (with a working history in both sound engineering and medical research), her long-term goal is to try and mend the painful gap between achievements in the lab and user experience. Carol is keen on science communication just as well as developing new algorithms: her talks often address the stigma related to wearing prosthetic devices, raising questions about how advances in technology and changes in society may drive each other.

Verity Ward

Verity Ward is a researcher at the Autism Community Research Network @ Southampton, within the Education School at the University of Southampton. Her research focuses on the experiences of autistic children and young people involved in technology design, and the process of participatory technology design as a mutual learning activity. Previously, she studied the MSc in Speech and Language Processing at the University of Edinburgh, and worked as an AI engineer, specialising in NLP, at a start up in Bristol.  

Autism Community Research Network @ Southampton


NB This event will be streamed live and may be recorded.


Jul 02 2020 -

#6 'Ethics of Assistive Technologies'

Sixth in a series of public discussion, this online event will cover issues around ethical aspects of assistive products.

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