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Decrypt Reporter on Making Omelettes with Bert the Robot

Decrypt Reporter on Making Omelettes with Bert the Robot

Nov 9, 2020

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Bert was talkative and expressive but he failed his audition to win a job helping to make omelettes. He dropped eggs all over the kitchen floor. Bert was actually one of three robots seeking employment as part of an experiment conducted by Adriana Hamacher during her Master in Science studies into machine-human interactions.

What grabbed Adriana's attention was how Bert's potential employer lied about not giving him the job while choosing a less chatty but better performing robot. The employers started to respond to Bert as if he had human qualities and apparently didn't want to hurt Bert's "feelings." When Bert made one of his many mistakes, he would raise a forlorn eyebrow, look mortified and somehow this machine managed to elicit sympathy from his human co-workers, Adriana said. Still, people didn't want to employ Bert. It may have been great technology that produced a conversational robot capable of mimicking emotions. But that technology did not get the job done. People wanted their eggs in the pan, not on the floor. As users, their experience with Bert was less than optimal.

It's The UX, Stupid

Adriana's expressive robotics studies showed her how crucial user experience is in the application of technologies. Whether it is in the fields of blockchain, IoT or robotics, consumers need to be able to use products easily, Adriana said on the latest episode of the Follow the White Rabbit podcast.

"It is key for all these systems to be easy to use," she said. "If you can't use something with just a couple of buttons, it is almost worthless."

Adriana, who is now a journalist covering blockchain and cryptocurrency for Decrypt, said blockchain product designers often pay too little enough attention to smooth user experience. That hinders the breakthrough technology from reaching the broadest audience.

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Adriana cited as Exhibit A for poor user experience decentralized finance. DeFi is an innovative and imaginative cryptocurrency-based alternative to traditional finance that remains a confusing mystery even to many in the blockchain community despite its fast growth this year.

"Do you understand half of what is going on?" the BBC-trained journalist, presenter and producer asked.

To hear more of Adriana's experience and views ranging from protecting journalism sources' privacy to countering sexism in the blockchain industry, follow us down the rabbit hole: listen to the conversation here or on your favorite streaming service.

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Mar 8, 2021
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