Keynote Speakers

Professor Min Chen

Professor of Scientific Visualization, University of Oxford

The Value of Interaction in Data Intelligence

In this "big data" era, it is common to expect data scientists to develop computing technologies that will transform data into insight. However, one often forgets that whenever a computing system asks for an input from its user, it is asking for a piece of insight from the human. The computer also knows the value of such insight. A yes-no answer is worth up to 1 bit. A selection out of 8 radio buttons is worth up to 3 bits. An interaction with a slider or a text field is usually worth more bits. At the end of a data intelligence process, whose insight does the process deliver? In this talk, the speaker will examine this question from both theoretical and practical perspectives. In particular, he will discuss the role of interaction in visual analytics, the potential of using information theory to underpin data science, and the need for more adventurous empirical studies to evaluate the value of human-computer interaction.  


Min Chen developed his academic career in Wales between 1984 and 2011. He is currently the professor of scientific visualization at Oxford University and a fellow of Pembroke College. His research interests include visualization, computer graphics and human-computer interaction. He has co-authored some 200 publications, including his recent contributions in areas such as theory of visualization, video visualization, visual analytics, and perception and cognition in visualization. He has worked on a broad spectrum of interdisciplinary research topics, ranging from the sciences to sports, and from digital humanities to cybersecurity. His services to the research community include papers co-chair of IEEE Visualization 2007 and 2008, Eurographics 2011, IEEE VAST 2014 and 2015; co-chair of Volume Graphics 1999 and 2006, EuroVis 2014; associate editor-in-chief of IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics; and co-director of Wales Research Institute of Visual Computing. He is currently an editor-in-chief of Computer Graphics Forum. He is a fellow of British Computer Society, European Computer Graphics Association, and Learned Society of Wales. URL:

Professor Ann Blandford

Professor of Human Computer Interaction, University College London

Designing for SPECIal people: the role of HCI in delivering digital health technologies that are usable, useful and used

Digital health technologies are often promoted as a solution to the challenge of improving citizens’ health and wellbeing while reducing care providers’ costs. For example, “big data” is going to deliver insights and solutions for rare diseases and chronic conditions; stratified (or personalised) medicine is going to transform cancer treatments; and people will be empowered through better information and behaviour change to self-manage effectively. In reality, progress is slower than many expect, and outcomes are less compelling. In this talk I will explore some of the reasons behind this expectation-outcome gap and highlight roles for HCI in developing and deploying digital health technologies that make a difference in practice. I will draw on case studies that highlight the need to understand people’s Social, Physical, Emotional, Cognitive Individual (SPECIal) situations – i.e., the many factors that shape whether and how people use health technologies. I will highlight roles for theories and for a variety of methods in understanding and designing for the realities of delivering usable, useful and used digital health technologies.


I am Professor of Human-Computer Interaction in the Department of Computer Science at UCL, and a member of UCL Interaction Centre (UCLIC, jointly supported by the Department of Computer Science and the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences). I was Director of UCLIC 2004-2011. In 2013, I was recognised as an academic role model in the School of Life and Medical Sciences, a testament to UCL's support for interdisciplinary working. I am also a parent and a grandparent. In 2015, I was appointed as the first Director of the UCL Institute of Digital Health, and am a Suffrage Science award holder. My first degree is in Mathematics, from Cambridge University, and my PhD is in Artificial Intelligence and Education, from the Open University. I started my career in industry as a software engineer, followed by a period managing the Computer Assisted Teaching Unit at QMUL. I gradually developed a focus on the use and usability of computer systems. In 1991, I joined the Applied Psychology Unit in Cambridge as a research scientist, working on the AMODEUS project. I moved to Middlesex University, initially as a lecturer, and subsequently as Professor and Director of Research in Computing Science. I moved to UCL as a Senior Lecturer in 2002 and became a professor (again) in 2005. My focus is now on technology for health and wellbeing. I have been technical programme chair for IHM-HCI 2001, HCI 2006, DSVIS 2006 and NordiCHI2010. I chaired AISB (1997-1999), and was a member of the EPSRC Information and Communications Technologies Strategic Advisory Team (2004-2008). I was Vice Chair of IFIP Working Group 2.7/13.4 (2010-2013). I am a Fellow of the BCS and a member of the UK Computing Research Committee (UKCRC). Indeed, I am currently Chair of UKCRC (2016-18).

Professor Mike McTear

Emeritus Professor of Computer Science, Ulster University

Chatbots as a new interface to smart devices: issues and challenges

Chatbots have been hailed as the new way to interact with smart devices, providing a conversational interface where a traditional graphical user interface is more cumbersome to use or in some cases not even applicable. In addition to those chatbots that are being developed by large technology companies to support conversational commerce, tens of thousands of chatbots are being created by enthusiasts, making use of the many easy-to-use development tools that have become available. However, while it is easy to create a chatbot, it is not easy to create one that is good and useful. In this talk I will first review recent developments in chatbots and conversational interfaces, showing how lessons from past work in spoken dialogue systems, voice user interfaces, and embodied conversational agents are frequently being ignored. Following this I will look critically at issues of design and the use of technologies such as natural language processing and machine learning, and offer some recommendations for future developments.  


Michael McTear is an Emeritus Professor at Ulster University with a special research interest in spoken language technologies. He is the author of several books, including Spoken Dialogue Technology: Toward The Conversational User Interface, Springer Verlag, 2004, Spoken Dialogue Systems, Morgan and Claypool, 2010, (with Kristiina Jokinen), Voice Application Development for Android, Packt Publishing, 2013 (with Zoraida Callejas), and The Conversational Interface: Talking to Smart Devices, Springer, 2016 (with Zoraida Callejas and David Griol). He was Visiting Professor at the University of Hawaii (1986-87), the University of Koblenz, Germany (1994-95), and University of Granada, Spain (2006, 2007, 2008) and was a visiting researcher for two summer internships at British Telecoms Research Laboratories. Professor McTear has delivered keynote addresses and tutorials at many conferences and workshops and has participated in 7 European funded projects and in 4 nationally funded projects. He also played a leading role in several projects with hospitals that involved designing and developing voice user interfaces to support home monitoring for patients with diabetes and to measure and analyze INR readings.    

Professor Lynne Hall

Professor of Human Computer Interaction, University of Sunderland

Rethinking User Experience Evaluation: From the Dull to the Sublime

In our evidence-based, data-driven world, HCI has adopted approaches primarily from the social sciences, so whether a university dissertation or a published paper, most user experience evaluations include a mixed methods approach of questionnaires, interviews and/or focus groups. So far, so good - but these haven’t much changed since the 1990s, so are they really still appropriate for what and who we are trying to evaluate now?

User experience evaluations are designed to provide relevant data, they are designed by evaluators for the researchers, developers, assessors or funders who want to know the results. Although end users will interact with the evaluation, we have become accustomed to designing the evaluation for the secondary user, whilst all firmly recognising the benefits of an end-user-centred design ethos. What does this say about the quality of our data, obtained from an experience designed for someone else, without any input or consideration of the end user themselves?

Through this focus on ourselves and our needs from the evaluation, whilst we have seen massive advances in user experiences in visualising and interacting with computers and in the co-creation process, there has been little change in how we evaluate the user’s experience. This keynote will focus on the future of user experience evaluation methods considering how evaluation can be used to extend the user experience whilst providing quality data.


Lynne Hall is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Sunderland, and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and of the British Computer Society. She has over 25 years of experience of researching and practicing in Human Computer Interaction, with over 120 publications and was Chair of the British HCI Conference in 2017. Lynne has participated in major research projects, including on social robotics, Serious Games, and intelligent virtual characters, with her research focusing on innovative user evaluation approaches. Through this work she has led dissemination activities, showcasing research to the European public as one of five exemplary EU projects as part of ICT2015. Lynne has considerable experience of engaging the academic community in collaborative work with SMEs, with her work on academic-industry engagement highlighted nationally. She leads knowledge transfer across the University and has previously held leadership roles in regional projects including the Sunderland Software City project stimulating engagement and involvement of academics, students and SMEs. Over the past 4 years Lynne has delivered knowledge transfer partnerships (KTP) with over 30 companies, being very highly commended as best practice by the regional KTP advisor. Lynne’s current KTP funding focus is working with colleagues in the Faculty of Business and Law to develop KTPs for the TSB retail initiative.

Professor Paul Mc Kevitt

Emeritus Professor of Digital MultiMedia, Ulster University

Waiting for Human-Computer Empathy (HCE) ...

Here we argue that Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) can be facilitated through Human-Computer Empathy (HCE), where people and computers place themselves in each other's shoes. For too long people have discriminated against computers and robots by saying that they are only as good as what we put into them. However, in recent times computers have outperformed people, beating world champions at the asian game of Go (2017), Jeopardy (2011) and chess (1997), mastering precision in medical surgical operations (STAR) and diagnosis (Watson), and in specific speech and image recognition tasks. Computers have also composed music (AIVA), generated art (Aaron), stories (Quill) and poetry (Google AI). In terms of modelling Human-Computer Empathy (HCE), we will discuss theories, computational models, algorithms and systems for detecting, representing and responding to people's emotions and sentiment. Example systems will be covered, modelling memories and companionship of older people with limited abilities (MemoryLane), media accessibility for the hearing and visually impaired (BLISS), mood swings during soccer reporting (NewsViz), learner emotions during online learning of Physics (PlayPhysics), and people's sentiment and emotional reaction towards online videos (360-MAM-Affect). We will finish with a prognosis for the future and how we can interact better with digital souls by doing unto them as we would have them do unto us.


Paul Mc Kevitt is Professor Emeritus of Digital MultiMedia & Director of BLISS (Broadcast Language Identification & Subtitling System) at Ulster University, Magee Campus, Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland. He has studied and worked in the field of Computer Science at University College Dublin (Ireland), New Mexico State University (USA), Exeter and Sheffield Universities (England), Aalborg University (Denmark) and Ulster University. He was a UK EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) Advanced Fellow in the Department of Computer Science, University of Sheffield, England. The Fellowship, commenced in 1994, and released him from his Assistant Professorship (tenured Lectureship) for 5 years to conduct full-time research on the integration of natural language, speech and vision processing. He has also been Visiting Professor at LIMSI-CNRS, Orsay, Univ. Paris Sud, France and Visiting Fellow at the School of Electronic Engineering, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland. His research interests are in Natural Language Processing (NLP) including the processing of sentiment, emotions, beliefs and intentions in dialogue. He is also interested in Philosophy, Digital Creativity, Digital Empathy and the general areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). He directed the 23rd International Loebner Prize Contest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) (2013), held for the first time on the island of Ireland, and The International Workshop on Digital Empathy on Halloween Day (2016), at Magee Campus.

Dr Gary McKeown

Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Queens University Belfast

**Affective Computing Workshop Keynote

Empathic Communication in the Human Machine Interface

When humans successfully socially interact with each other they often talk about having made a real connection with one another or that "the other person really understood me". Here I will argue that this results from human communication being a means to display a "mind-reading" ability – in the scientific meaning of mind-reading rather than the theatrical. Human communication has goals that are less concerned with the provision of useful information, which is often the assumption in Human Computer Interaction research, and more concerned with displaying socio-political astuteness. This requires us to show understanding of other people, knowledge of their desires, goals, feelings, and expectations. Showing this understanding is the hallmark of the empathic communicator. Responding appropriately using this knowledge within a social context marks out the socially fit communicator from the socially awkward. This reframing of human communication has many implications for Human Machine and Human Computer Interaction. Effective interfaces appear to have an intuitive understanding of our expectations, and as we approach an era of personal digital assistants we require them to be able to respond appropriately within certain contexts. For these assistants to exist seamlessly within our environments they will require an empathic understanding of those they wish to assist and the ability to produce contextually appropriate social signals to display this understanding.


Gary McKeown is a senior lecturer and social psychologist in the School of Psychology, Queens University Belfast. He has a primary research and theoretical interest in human communication and social interaction. His research profile is interdisciplinary with both theoretical, experimental and methodological papers in psychology journals and also many within the domains of social signal processing and affective computing. Often this research involves understanding natural human communication to inform the development of embodied conversational agents. Building on a long history of emotion and affective computing research in the School of Psychology – including the HUMAINE network, he had important roles in the SEMAINE, ILHAIRE project and within the SSPNet network. He has produced a theoretical account of the evolution of human communication with a particular emphasis on mind-reading and perspective-taking known as the Analogical Peacock Hypothesis; this has led to research work in understanding laughter, humour and storytelling. His research interests have led to many collaborations with non-academic partners, particularly commercial and industrial partnerships for the transfer of knowledge and techniques to commercial settings. From a methodological perspective, the fields of social signal processing and affective computing address challenging data collection issues from a behavioural science stance–often using dynamic scenarios with multiple streams of synchronised information. This requires new ways of thinking about data and novel statistical approaches to develop analyses that can usefully address social science questions. Dr McKeown has been actively involved in the creation of both new data gathering techniques and the statistical approaches required to address them.