How artificial intelligence could provide some respite for the NHS

How artificial intelligence could provide some respite for the NHS

How artificial intelligence could provide some respite for the NHS

Emma Rich, University of Bath and Andy Miah, University of Salford

The NHS recently announced plans to trial an artificially intelligent mobile health app to a million people in London. The aim is to help diagnose and treat patients by engaging them in a real time text message conversation which will complement the NHS 111 phone based service (which was criticised by the Care Quality Commission watchdog). The app’s designers, Babylon Healthcare Ltd, use algorithms to make initial diagnoses which are then followed up with human consultations. It has already received a glowing CQC evaluation.

The app is likely to provoke a mixed response, with enthusiastic technophiles up against those concerned that more technology means a less human healthcare service. Yet, with the NHS being described as suffering from a humanitarian crisis, and with a growing healthcare burden and limited resources, some smart solutions are needed. It is hard to deny that problems of limited funding are enduring features of this unique public service. Perhaps AI has the answer.

In fact, providing effective healthcare is always a combination of systematised technological efficiency combined with patient centred human care. Polarised views on technology are often not helpful. It’s also necessary to recognise how this approach to healthcare is part of a wider technical revolution in which connected objects in the Internet of Things will change everything from healthcare to traffic maintenance.

The NHS app is really simple to use and has been likened to using the social messaging service WhatsApp – but with one crucial difference: you are chatting with a computer, not a person. Once the app is downloaded, you log your basic health information, and then start explaining your symptoms. The robotic “responder” will say things like: “I just need a few details from you before we get started,” and “nearly there” to keep the conversation going. After a more detailed exchange, it might come to a conclusion along these lines:

Ok so your symptoms don’t sound urgent, but I think they require further investigation. Make sure you arrange a consultation with a GP within the next two weeks. If left, symptoms like yours can become more serious, so book now while you remember and I’ll remind you closer to the time. If things change in the meantime and you become more unwell, speak to a doctor as soon as you can.

This digital diagnosis service intends to provide an additional communication tool between the NHS and patients. It it part of a broader ecosystem of digital health services which include online health tracking. Also, the app takes advantage of the fact that some people these days are likely to be more comfortable chatting by text than they are with talking on the phone.

This digital phenomenon is driven by the promise of a wider technological fix to social problems. Applications within healthcare could bring about big wins for society, where the functionality of the device is made all the more efficient by the aggregation of “big data” that it generates. Tech firm Babylon is joined by other big players seeking to do similar things, such as Google’s Deep Mind, which wants to mine NHS data to to enable earlier diagnoses for example, or to achieve more effective monitoring of treatments.

At the world’s largest tech expo in Las Vegas at the start of 2017, home AI systems have been one of the biggest hits. So perhaps the NHS has found an intelligent solution at just the right time. People may now be far more willing to have a “relationship” with an attentive machine than a call centre drone.

Digital doctor

Driving these developments is the assumption that, within a digital knowledge economy, these forms of communication can offer more neutral and accurate responses, circumventing human error. Yet, scholars within the emerging field of critical digital health studies suggest that algorithms must be understood as part of a complex network of interconnections between human and non-human actors. A recent study comparing physician and computer diagnostic accuracy revealed that doctors “vastly outperformed” algorithms

So we need to ask some key questions about the assimilation of AI into healthcare. How do people make sense of the list of possible diagnoses they receive from the machine? Will people follow the advice, or trust it? How will AI need to be tailored to accommodate human variation, by geography, capacity, or cultural identity. Another important aspect of this trial will be the consideration given to the backgrounds of the users. Given enduring concerns about inequalities of digital access and digital literacy, trials for future digital health tech need to be conducted amongst those populations with limited resources, experiences, and technological infrastructure.

Perhaps the biggest question we face in a world where ever more of our data is locked up in the mobile app environment, is over the proprietary and privacy of our data. How can we ensure that we have the freedom to move our health data around, over time, and ensure that it is safe and secure? We may need a new Bill of Health Data Rights to underpin and limit their exploitation of our data, and work on this must start now.

The Conversation

Emma Rich, Reader, Department for Health, University of Bath and Andy Miah, Chair in Science Communication & Future Media, University of Salford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Sport 2.0 at the World Aquatics Convention #FWAC2016

Sport 2.0 at the World Aquatics Convention #FWAC2016

This week, I've been in Canada for a couple of nights, speaking at the FINA World Aquatics Convention. It was an amazing event really and a lovely experience. My panel focused on the digital experience, and we had some fantastic experience among the speakers, which considered of Claude Ruibal (formerly YouTube, GoPro), Peter Diamond Executive Vice-President, Programming, NBC Olympics, and Will Bastin (GMS Manager, FINA) 

At the awards gala, Michael Phelps was given a lifetime legend award and it really feels like a special year for swimming. With Phelps making history as the most decorated Olympian of all time, and concluding his career in Rio, it was a really touching setting, quite low-key - compared to the Olympics - and, as he put it, a feeling of being among "family". I think a lot of emotions were quite high and it was especially nice to see him here, after having last seen him win gold in Rio, in a very different setting.

Here is Phelps at the event, followed by a shot I took during the Rio Games. Slide screenshots from my presentation follow, which was the first outing of my new book, Sport 2.0 for The MIT Press. A web resource will follow soon! 

The moment captured in this photograph that I took in Rio actually appeared in the Phelps video showreel of his career.

And at the ceremony...

Finally, my slides...

Making VR Matter

Making VR Matter

As part of our Creative Entrepreneurs event at Salford University, i took part in a panel on how virtual reality can be used to enrich a business. Among the panelists was the amazing Robin McNicholas of Marshmallow Laser Feast and Sarah Jones, a leading influener in VR.

I talked about our Virtual Chernobyl project, which brought people into a place that is uninhabitable, taking them through content that is captured as data by one of our leading researchers. This fusion of communication and research is crucial to us.

At the end, we had a go at doing the mannequin challenge too :)

What's next for digital sport

What's next for digital sport

For the BBC Digital Cities week at University of Salford, I gave a talk on VR, which looked at the cross over between what cities are doing with digital and how sports are evolving into these spaces. The BBC's Academy came along to produce an interview, captured by Charles Miller here.

Living with Robots #ESRCfestival

Living with Robots #ESRCfestival

As part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, I produced an event that explores our future with robots in an experiment of public engagement, science communication, and social science. We invited families to come to the Museum of Science and Industry to discuss together what this future might be, while undertaking a Lego robot building workshop with Nick Hawken and creating Noisy Toys, Steve Summers - robot instruments. 

I really wanted to create an event that explored a novel social science methodology and we combined a number of techniques to give people an insight into the role of social science in developing our understanding and comprehension of the future. This is a really challenging proposition for areas where we have yet to work with a demographic of users, but is crucial to help us build a greater comprehension for the issues that might arise.

As a catalyst for the discussions, we had input from world leading experts on this field who asked the following questions of our participants:

We had fantastic support from Salford University student volunteers and the amazing contributions of Dr Marieke Navin, Salford Uni Science Communicator in Residence and Dr Gary Kerr, PhD researcher in Science Communication.

Here's a little overview 


#ESRCfestival @SalfordUni 'Living with Robots' with Prof Andy MIah




Re-Thinking Journalism

Re-Thinking Journalism

Today, I am in Switzerland, giving a talk about how to utilize social media to build a reputation as a researcher. My take on this is to think about how best to utilize the range of creative media around us, as academics, and to explore the overlap between journalism and academia in that pursuit.

This configuration allows us to develop a holistic approach to nurturing reputation, with community building, and awareness raising, while ensuring that we don't treat the media as a static entity.

We need to ensure that our use of media - social or otherwise - is not just about instrumental values, but about co-creating and innovating as researchers. 


eSport at Salford University #eSportsUoS16

eSport at Salford University #eSportsUoS16

Today at Media City, we have our first eSport conference, with some really amazing speakers, who are thought leaders and doers in the industry. It's such a privilege to have to have such excellent folk to our place to plan the future!


eSports and the Future of Sport

The University of Salford Centre for Sports Business, in collaboration with The Digital Cluster (part of CARe), and World Gaming Executives is hosting a one-day symposium on the 2nd November 2016 at the University of Salford at MediaCityUK on eSports and the Future of Sport.

This event will include talks by leading academics in the field, and those working in the management and provision of eSports. This will explore the rapidly developing business of eSports, and consider its relationship and synergies with the changing nature of more traditional sports.

The event is free and open to anyone interested eSports, the business of digital gaming, digital media, or the changing nature of professional sports.

Book Tickets Here

Hashtag: #eSportsUoS16



930-1030: Registration, and welcome coffee

1030-1045: Welcome (Chris Brady, Centre for Sports Business, University of Salford)

1045-1200: Session 1: The Future of Sport?

  • Garry Crawford (University of Salford)

  • Andy Miah (University of Salford)

  • Trevor Keane (Celtic eSports League)

1200-100: Keynote 1: The Development of eSports

  • Chester King (CEO International eGames Group)

100-200: Lunch /FIFA with Kieran 'Kez' Brown (Manchester City eSports)

200-300: Session 2: Regulating eSports

  • Christopher Paget (Sheridans, Media Law)

  • Dr Mark Johnson (York Digital Hub) & Dr Jamie Woodcock (LSE)

300-330 Coffee

330-430: Keynote 2: Panel on The Opportunities of eSports

  • Dominic Sacco (British eSports Association), Carleigh Morgan (King’s College London), Malph Minns (Strive Sponsorship), Josh Williams (NUEL)

5: Drinks Reception



As part of the Manchester Science Festival closing weekend, I developed and co-produced an event called Amorance, exploring the science of falling in love. We had some of the most amazing science communicators around the UK involved, including Dr Marieke Navin, Dr Erinma Ochu, Dr Sam Illingworth, Dr Gary Kerr, Dr Jo Meredith, Dr Linda Dubrow-Marshall and Dr Rod Dubrow-Marshall, and fantastic performers. 

It was the most amazing event I have ever worked on and I really feel like we might have generated some life-long memories for people. In a world where we often focus more on the numbers, the depth of an experience is often a harder goal to achieve. Yet, the most significant memories in our lives - and possibly the most informative or educative - are those that have a deep impact on us and whose influence can stretch further. I will always remember a production of 'A Brief History of Time' at the Tramway theatre in Glasgow, which is one of the most memorable theatre experiences of my life. Their audience for that show was deliberately 12 people and it was amazing. 

That's what we tried to do with this event, time will tell whether we managed it! Here's some coverage...

Salford Science Jam

Salford Science Jam

Our most spectacular event in Manchester Science Festival is the Salford Science Jam, in which we had an amazing array of events for all the families. This year's production included a plethora of virtual reality systems, co-creation of the amazing Sensory Sound Pit, by European City of Science Artist in Residence, Di Mainstone, a co-commission with the Foundation of Art and Creative Technology, and even Dr Helen Sharman's space suit. More documentation to follow!

Higher, Faster, Enhanced?

Higher, Faster, Enhanced?

After a full on week of doping controversies with the Fancy Bears website hacks, I gave a talk at Future Fest this weekend on the future of sport and the use of human enhancement.

There's a major problem about to explode with the Therapeutic Use Exemption and this could change  a lot about how we make sense of the distinction between therapy and enhancement. As always, sport is at the forefront of figuring out crucial bioethical problems that will confront our radical transhuman future.




A Drone's Eye View of the Future

A Drone's Eye View of the Future

TEDx talk for University of York, looks at the many ways in which drones are being developed and utliized for a range of social goods.


My Rio 2016 Research

My Rio 2016 Research

As my 10th Olympic Games, Rio 2016 was a long time coming, having seen it through from bid stag to completion and, in recent years, working more closely with the media operations team at the International Olympic Committee.

While here, I shot around 100gb of photographs, attended around 20 sports, wrote 4 articles for the news, interviewed for around 20 different outlets, re-designed and wrote for a magazine, and continued by longitudinal research into media change at the Olympics, this time focused on social media and new forms of broadcasting. Articles to follow.

I also made a film about life in one of Rio's favela, and even managed to publish a two page spread in the Times Higher Education about social media (unrelated to the Games!). It has been an epic fortnight, my most productive Games yet and it is possible thanks especially to the University of Salford, Manchester , which continues to support me tremendously in all my endeavours.



Life inside Rio's Largest Favela

Life inside Rio's Largest Favela

Two days before the the Rio 2016 Olympic Games opening ceremony, I took a trip to Rocinha, to get an insight into what life is like inside the favelas. The tour was led by Obi Wan, 20, who is an extraordinary role model for the community, and incredibly eloquent in his reflections on the situation of the favela community in Rio. I dedicated the film to him, its star. If ever you visit Rio, stay at his guest house. Here's the film....


The Photographers of Rio 206

The Photographers of Rio 206

New article out with The Conversation, focuses on the amazing community of photographers at the Games. Here it is...

Incredible images from Rio 2016, as photographers rise to meet social media challenges

Andy Miah, University of Salford

More than 1,500 of the world’s best photographers flocked to Rio for the Olympic Games, capturing inspiring and surprising images of the world’s biggest sporting event. From Reuters to National Geographic, the games draw professional photographers of all stripes – not just ones that cover sport.

Mario Tama (mariotama), Getty Images photographer. Currently based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by way of New York City.

Everyone’s a pro

But with the rise of digital and mobile photography, capturing the landmark moments of the Olympics is a much harder gig today than it used to be. Countless people inside the venues have their own high-quality cameras – and what they don’t manage to capture, they can find online from someone else in the audience, simply by following a hashtag on Twitter or Instagram.

This army of amateurs – which includes the athletes themselves – can even publish their photographs online without worrying about getting in trouble from the International Olympic Committee – provided they don’t use the images for commercial purposes.

Jessica Ennis-Hill (jessicaennishill) takes a selfie with Usain Bolt.

Getting creative

As a result, today’s professional photographers have to be more creative and more innovative than their predecessors. They have to develop a unique sense of what makes a photograph historically important. And even then, there’s a chance that someone will have the same idea; remember that iconic photograph of Usain Bolt smiling over his shoulder during the 100 metre heat? Well, there are actually two of these.

Cameron Spencer (cjspencois), Sydney based Getty Images staff photographer.

High tech

So, to set themselves apart from the crowd, professional photographers are having to use technology more creatively. There are some remarkable gadgets on show at Rio; from cameras which can go in the water and fly through the air, to rigs which can take 360° footage.

Bob Martin (bubblesontour), photographer and grandfather.

Working for free

Photographers are also having to share more of their work for free, in the hope that this exposure will help them to secure new commissions. Platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and Flickr are key destinations for photographers to showcase their latest snaps.

Gary Hershorn (garyhershorn), NYC based photographer and photo editor. Former Reuters, now contributing to SilverHub Media and Getty Images.

Maintaining control

The challenge here is that controlling one’s images online is not so easy, as people repost, copy, and distribute often without seeking permission, paying royalties, or even attributing properly. One of the leading photo agencies, Getty, dealt with this recently by allowing people to use a certain number of photos online for free, using a simple embed code, which links the image back to their website.

Adam Pretty (adampretty).

Going mainstream

Newspapers still want to illustrate their front pages with the iconic image of any given sports event: the photo that everyone expects to see. New platforms attract millions of users, with reports already indicating that most social traffic comes from the photo and video sharing platform Instagram. Social media also creates a simple way of measuring images' popularity through “likes” or “favourites”. So the mainstream media has good cause to sit up and pay attention.

Fun social media stories are also a big hit at the games, as was true of US athlete Ben Kanute, who staged his own opening ceremony, when he couldn’t make the official one.

Mark Reis (mark.reis).

Avant garde artists

With the rise of citizen generated media, the photographer’s future may be in jeopardy: Instagram likes don’t always pay the bills. But challenges like these are often a catalyst for major shifts in how avant garde artists make new work. Consider Gerald Andel – one of the first Olympic Artists in Residence – who is using Twitter’s six-second video app Vine to make unusual work.

A new age

Photography is no exception and to get a glimpse of this transformation in the sports genre, take a look at the work of these extraordinary artists whose work may prove to be indicative of sport photography’s new golden age, where photographers have now become videographers, animators, and much more.

Nick Didlick Nikon Ambassador, professional photographer/videographer and digital imaging pioneer. Exploring and loving the intensely visual world we live in.

Donald Miralle (donaldmiralle), Photographer, Waterman, Husband, Father.“

David Burnett (davidburnettfoto), freelance photographer for National Geographic.

David Ramos (davidramosgetty) staff photographer with Getty Images in Barcelona.

Lucy Nicholson (lucynic) Reuters senior staff photographer. Born in London; based in LA, covering news, sport and features.

Jed Jacobsohn (jedjacobsohn).

Anthony Edgar (anthonyedgar888).

Al Bello (albello55), Sports photographer at Getty Images”

Christophe Simon (christophesimonafp).

John Lehmann (johnlehmann), staff photojournalist with the Globe and Mail based in Vancouver, Canada.

The Conversation

Andy Miah, Chair in Science Communication & Future Media, University of Salford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How will the Olympic Channel change television?

How will the Olympic Channel change television?

Over the last year, I've been following the IOC Agenda 2020 recommendation actions around creating an Olympic Channel, which launches on 21st August, straight after the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Here's the article I wrote about it for The Conversation.


New Olympic Channel will change the way we watch sport forever – here's how

Andy Miah, University of Salford

As the Rio 2016 games draw to an end, the Olympic Channel begins its life. Following its launch at the closing ceremony of the games, the channel will completely change how we consume television in the future. This new digital platform will operate 24/7 to fill the gap in between games with local, national, and international sporting events. The Olympic Channel is a world first in broadcast history, and may be the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) most strategic move for a decade.

As things stand, the Olympic movement is almost entirely financed by the exclusive sale of broadcast rights. About 74% of the IOC’s total income is derived from this source; the largest chunk of which comes from American broadcaster NBC. For years, critics have said that this leaves the Olympic Games very much in the pockets of television executives – so much so that events are reportedly rescheduled to suit television audiences, rather than athletes.

Yet we live now in a digital era, and television has changed dramatically since the IOC started these contractual arrangements in the 1980s. Today, television sits alongside social media, as more broadcasters produce content for platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.

Twitter is making deals to livestream full Olympic matches within its platform, and the IOC even has its own YouTube channel, which it has been using as an archive of Olympic footage since Beijing 2008. It recently started to upload full match episodes from previous games, which are gathering the lion’s share of the channel’s views.

With such developments proceeding apace, the future of television is uncertain; which makes NBC’s recent decision to pay an unprecedented amount for the US rights to the Olympics until 2032 a significant gamble. By this time, televisions will just be screens onto which we push content from our mobiles. The IOC knows that the days of the television as an operating system are over – and its new Olympic Channel reflects this.

Olympics every day?

It might seem odd to have an Olympic Channel when the games are not on, but in fact it could well offer users a service they didn’t know they needed: that is, a way of connecting with the athletes they care about, in between the games. The channel also wants to own the hyper-local sports experience, which is currently under-resourced by most international and national sports federations. It wants people to log in and follow their sport, and it wants local clubs to broadcast their events.

The channel will start off as a facility to fill the gap between the games. But it won’t make sense to ask followers to tune out once the Olympics begin simply to satisfy broadcasters who have paid to cover them. Instead, it’s likely that those broadcasters will use the platform, and become a big part of it going forward.

Who’s got better tunes, Usain Bolt or Mo Farah? from

The channel also has third-party integration, to make the most of the mobile experience. You can follow Spotify playlists by your favourite athletes, so that you can train to the same music. You can share your data and track your progress using Samsung’s S Health application (Samsung is an Olympic partner). And you can play interactive games during sports events, so that you don’t switch off from the content and spread your attention elsewhere.

The long game

The IOC is playing the long game, and their initiative could become the Facebook of the sports world. Once the platform has a loyal following, the IOC will be able to monetise this in unimaginable ways – perhaps it could even renegotiate its relationship with television broadcasters and sell advertising directly. But it’s likely that some crucial deals will be struck before this situation arises.

For now, the channel will deliver exclusive, behind-the-scenes footage of the games, which will extend viewer interests well past the closing ceremony and into the next Olympic cycle. For a long time, the IOC has emphasised that it is not a content creator for the Olympic Games. But while the channel is not yet covering the games, the fact that it comes out of the Olympic Broadcasting Services (the organisation which shoots all the sport content at the Olympics) means that there will be increasing overlaps between the two.

The challenge will be to ensure that this adds value to the broadcast offer – rather than detracts from it – so that the IOC remains affluent. That said, if the Olympic Channel can run its own advertising and sponsor campaigns, then it can cut out the television middle-man and do exactly what social media does today.

For a century, the Olympic Games have been a litmus test for media change, with slow motion replay, 3D television and virtual reality all being pioneered at the games. This year, organisers have boasted about how Rio 2016 is the first games to be consumed on mobile first and televisions second. Looking at the state of the media today – where companies like CNN are showing a median viewer age of 61 – it’s hard to see much future for television, as we presently know it. But one thing’s for sure – you’ll still be able to watch the Olympics.

The Conversation

Andy Miah, Chair in Science Communication & Future Media, University of Salford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why academics should care about social media

Why academics should care about social media

Accompanying my A-Z of Social Media for Academia re-launch, in partnership with the Times Higher Education, I published a 2 page article on the value of social media. I will also have monthly updates on social media for the magazine, so keep an eye out for that!