Biometric Mirror, Unreliable Data, And Dystopian Attraction Scales – How Can AI Bring Us Together? With Dr Niels Wouters

Today, we’re chatting with Dr Niels Wouters, Head of Research and Emerging Practice for Science Gallery Melbourne and Research Fellow in the Interaction Design Lab at the University of Melbourne.

Dr Wouters’ research focuses on social good and the human element of technology, especially as it pertains to AI and Human-Computer Interaction. A renowned speaker across national and international media, Wouters regularly speaks about the impacts of new technology on urban life. He has been featured on The Sydney Morning Herald, ABC, BBC, The Washington Times, World Economic Forum, Dazed Digital and CNN.

Dr Wouters is the creator of Biometric Mirror, Stories of Exile, Encounters, and Street Talk. His work will be featured in a permanent Science Gallery exhibit in Melbourne.

During today’s discussions, Dr Wouters will explain the purpose behind such fascinating projects as Biometric Mirror and the implications of trusting an AI trained on subjective data. He will also lead us through the journey of Street Talk and the very human, life-changing connections made via technology placed on the outside of homes in Belgium. How can technology bring us together as a community? How might unreliable AI be used against us in the future?

Today, we will explore these questions and more with one of society’s most creative researchers on Human-Machine Interaction, Dr Niels Wouters.

  • Street Talk – What happens when you equip family homes with technologies that engage the outside world? Explore the results of note printers for passersby, LED ambient noise detectors, and even a headphone that lets others hear the conversations within the home.
  • How do we treat data privacy differently when looking at digital data vs. linking people in analogue ways?
  • How did Dr Niels Wouters go from computer science to finance to architecture to find a home here linking science, art, ethics, and the human element?
  • How is Science Gallery bringing together artists and scientists to stir interest in STEM among young adults? What’s happening with Science Gallery in Melbourne?
  • Biometric Mirror – How do people react to an AI that determines their gender, age, ethnicity, weirdness, aggression, and emotional instability? What if that data were used against them for job selection or insurance rates?
  • How simple is it to build an AI from an unreliable dataset? And how open are people to believe an assessment is correct due to the simple fact it was made by a machine?
  • What is AI’s impact on human rights? What concerns does a university’s ethics review committee have surrounding a project like Biometric Mirror?
  • What are the ethics behind showing AI-generated attractiveness assessments to young adults? Are young people more or less likely to accept a machine-generated assessment as fact?
  • Which sci-fi future are we in the midst of creating? The Jetsons? Bladerunner? Black Mirror? Or something else entirely?
  • Eliza’s “granddaughter” shows up as a special guest.
  • What’s coming in the future? Will there be a Biometric Mirror 3.0? Beyond facial recognition, what would happen if Wouters hacked an Alexa to do unexpected things? How will Biometric Mirror be used as an ethics probe? What’s next for Science Gallery?
  • What two or three things could listeners and legislators do now to jumpstart AI ethics in Australia?

Episode Resources:

Biometric Mirror (

Stories of Exile (

Encounters (

StreetTalk (

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