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Come Dine with SPHERE


Knowle West Media Centre

11 May 2016

Almost 50 members of the public came together to discuss new sensor technology over a home-cooked meal. Ben Meller, SPHERE’s public engagement associate, organised the event.

It may be the little things which have the biggest difference when it comes to the acceptability of new technology and sensors in people’s homes – just one of the interesting outcomes from the recent Come Dine with SPHERE event.

Local people came to learn about the SPHERE project and to feed into ways this technology may be made most useful and acceptable before it goes live in real homes.

Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) was transformed into a mock home for the evening, complete with living room, kitchen and dining room which people could explore, ask questions and make suggestions around three main concepts of SPHERE technology; interface, quality movement, and installation.

A team of researchers from the University of Newcastle working on the interface between data collected and the people whose homes they are installed in, answered questions around the type of data that will be available, and how it could be useful. They gave out takeaway packs, including a disposable camera, to learn more about how people move around the home.

Sensor design is important, yet many of the factors highlighted by the public are related to how they will be acceptable in the home. For example, attendees were interested in how obtrusive sensors would be; placement, the colour of wires, and whether they make any noise or have any flashing lights.

Discussion at the event was lively, with public and researchers getting involved in and sharing their opinions.

Ben said: “It was a very successful public engagement event with real discourse. And it’s just one of a series of events and a much longer-term programme of public involvement. It’s so important to hear these opinions.”

Feedback brought to light applications and challenges that the team may not have otherwise considered – from monitoring pets to collecting evidence that a damp house needs repair. Topics such as price, impact on broadband and health were also raised, which will help SPHERE to develop answers to their most frequently asked questions.

Friends of SPHERE and other attendees caught a flavour of the excitement of developing new technology, with the chance to truly impact the direction of research, while feedback about how sensors can work in a real-world environment was very useful for researchers.

Ben added: “There are a whole range of questions – from larger ethical issues to the small practical things which can make a huge difference. For example, if you’re trying to get to sleep at night, a red light could be very irritating and cause some people to switch the sensors off.

“It’s got to work for people and be useful. People have to be at the core of this research.”

Further information

Visit the SPHERE website, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with the latest news and information about upcoming events.

Become a Friend of SPHERE.

Learn about one of SPHERE’s other successful public engagement activities, Dress Sense, which was highly commended in the 2014/15 Engagement Awards.