ACI 2018: Connectedness & Well-being

In the fifth year of the annual Animal Computer Interaction Conference, this years program from the outset had a distinctive animal behaviour feel. The conference started with two workshops – one ran by myself, Charlotte Robinson & Patricia Pons on Participation in ACI and one by Fiona French and Valerie Hare et al. who held a soundjam on acoustic design for auditory enrichment.  Lots of papers and short papers were presents with two lovely keynotes, one by Dr. Denis Herzing on dolphins and another by Dr. Con Slobodchikoff on AI and animals. 

This blog post contains a brief write up of Denis Herzings talk and a paper I really liked by  Luisa Fernanda Ruge et al. on UX and dog wagging (that also won the best paper award!). 

Interested in previous years ACI writeups? Time machine back to ACI’16, and ACI’14

 Dr. Denise Herzing “Dolphins and Computers: Rethinking species-specific interfaces for communication studies”

Dr. Denis Herzing began her talk with talking about the history of dolphins noting their complexities physical structure, their tool use, acoustic capabilities and mirror work. She noted also that dolphins have lots of complex sensory system (sound, visual, taste and touch). Using these sensory systems she began by stating that when it comes to understanding dolphin communications there are often a lot of challenges as there is multiple sounds such as whistles, echolocations clicks, buzzeses and burst squawks. There are complications in recording these sounds as they are often directional requiring to know the orientation of the animal and knowing which animal is vocalising.

As a result dolphin research is often 20 years behind typical animal research. From these sounds, mentioned above, a certain amount of behaviour can be correlated through pattern recognition and different ways of mining data. One question within dolphin research that Herzing brought forward is are dolphin vocalisations communicating with referential (labelling) whistles? In the past by using pattern recognition often these whistles have been categorised using quantitive measures such as algorithms.

However, whilst there is a fair history of dolphin keyboards and interfaces, a lot of these have come from history of primates and other species. Here she noted Washoe history of learning sign language, and LANAs ability to learn yiddish. In these early primate work, the later Dolphin work that was conducted often parallels this earlier work both in the methodology and within the expectations. In these historic systems for animals she believes that the framework for technology is within three T’s: Time, Techniques and Technologies.

Herzing then spoke about dolphins recognition of TV screens showing that dolphins have cognitive flexibility and mirror recognition drawing from research conducted by Ken Marten and Diana Reiss. Dr. Diana Reiss then continued on this work by making a dolphin keyboard which allowed the dolphin to freeform ‘type’ which would produce sounds. Later the dolphins were shown to associate the sounds made by the keyboard to the objects that the keyboard labelled, drawing back to Herzings earlier question on referential labelling.  

Herzing then spoke about Walt Disneys worlds dolphin keyboard where dolphins could trigger the keyboard through tubes with lasers inside that would sense the dolphins nose. It as noted that a lot of these systems were designed to allow dolphins to explore.  

She then spoke about her bespoke keyboard in the water where in her ethical protocol she only worked with dolphins when they wanted too, so not exhibiting natural behaviour. Herzing also allowed the dolphins to use the keyboard how they wanted too, leaving it in their environment and using sound labels to request the toy back.

Here she linked her work back to my workshop the day before on Participation where the dolphin choose to participate and would often invite their friends along to the keyboard and experiment.

Lastly she spoke about her underwater computer called CHAT produced with Thad Starner where the computer makes whistles to allow the dolphins and divers  to request scarfs from each other and label items. The idea is that dolphins can request toys with a lot of data gathered on how they are mimicking the computer as well as adding in signature whistles. To summarise a lot of different systems have been made, but the issues are around triggers and visual systems and how to get a truly two-way interfaces with the current limited technology. 

Question was asked on how the work with dolphins has changed Herzing as a person, she noted that seeing animals initiate and try to communicate without a bridge has really made her think that she is missing so much of the natural world on what they could be doing. She mentioned that this is both humbling but also you realise how much there is left to do. For Herzing she looked at it as an opportunity and with technology this is stuff that humans have not had before, which has potential to change the world and also life of the animals. 

User Centered Design Approaches to Measuring Canine Behavior: Tail Wagging as a Measure of User Experience – Luisa Fernanda Ruge, Elizabeth Jane Cox, Clara Mancini & Rachael Luck

This was the authors first paper at looking at what User Experience (UX) means for ACI. Here Luisa noted that animal behaviour is never an easy task, however a lot of people have started developing methods for observing animals such as Baskin & Zamansky (2015), Paci et al. (2017) and Jackson et al. (2014). However there are current gaps in ACI observational methods such as now allowing for individual differences and other such variables.

Her proposal for this was to start to interpreting tail wagging as it was an explicit natural behaviour that can be measured systematically and non-invasively. In this study their paper presented measuring a dogs tail wag with three working dogs using personality scoring as a baseline. The authors noticed that dogs would wag at the top and base on their tail so looked at the whole scope. Finally they measured the dogs personality against the dogs tail wags. They then looked at the dogs interactions with successful and unsuccessful interactions upon the dogs tails.

In the future they plan to look at the speed of wagging, additional parameters and increase the number of participants.

Questions were asked about if the wagging of the whole tail vs. the tip of the tail were correlated due to the physical capabilities or being a volitional item about the dogs mood and state of mind. In addition to the tip always went in the same way that the tail went, in terms of velocity they are unsure as they could not measure this. A few more questions were raised on the validity towards personality and tail wags before applying to to the context of how do they feel about pushing a button on the door. 

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