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Developing Voice Technologies for Children: Technical and Ethical Considerations for the Creative Industries

Wednesday 20 January 2021, 1.30PM to 2pm

Speaker(s): Dr Jenn Chubb, Dr Sondess Missaoui

Conversational (CAI) systems and Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPA), such as Alexa, Google Home and Siri are becoming ubiquitous in our lives. The rapid innovation of Automatic Speech Recognition (karpagavalli 2016), Natural Language Processing (NLP) (Trilla2009; Vanzo2019), and Deep Learning Models (Abdel, 2014) enable high performance in domain specific and task-oriented CAI, including day-to-day tasks. In particular, there is increased attention on the implications of CAI for children, specifically with respect to their cognitive, social and linguistic development and though such technologies are increasingly popular across the generations, they remain still relatively opaque to the user.

With moves toward the 'ethicisation' of AI more broadly, tackling the implications of these technologies is increasingly pressing.While research efforts address the implications of CAI with respect to privacy (Lei, 2017), safety, security (Edu, 2019), and access (McReynolds, 2017); little is known about how to safely and responsibly design CAI for children (UNICEF, 2019). This talk will map a way in which to consider the social context within technology development substantiated and supported by argumentation from within literature. As such, the talk will focus on the technical and sociological aspects of CAI for children and make recommendations for their adoption in the real-world.

Dr Jenn Chubb and Dr Sondess Missaoui are collaborating with BAFTA award-winning digital agency, Joi Polloi, on an exciting new project that uses AI voice technologies to engage with children. The project, developing a meta-story chat tool to allow children to safely engage with characters from their favourite TV show through voice-assisted smart devices such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home, is nearing completion with a prototype tool, as well as a report which focused on reviewing recent research into the ethical implications of conversational AI for children.

Location: Online