First Academic Media Study of AI Virtual Beings Announced

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|Feb 12|magazine12 min read

BERLIN, Feb. 11, 2020 /PRNewswire/ - Media scholar Andreas Sudmann today announced the beginning of the first ethnographic study of its kind aimed at examining AI-powered digital avatars. The study will follow the Microsoft M12-backed AI startup, Twenty Billion Neurons, and examine how different forms of media take part in the generation and production of AI knowledge and practices.

Sudmann's study will shed light on how people, practices and technology from fields as diverse as computer science, product development, design, business, and marketing are combined and interwoven to create AI-driven virtual beings with humanlike intelligence.

When people first think about media they often associate it with mass communication. Sudmann's project, however, is based on a broader understanding of the term.

"Media does not just depict worlds -- it literally creates them, or in the case of TwentyBN: digital avatars. AI is the very field where machines can now learn to perceive their environments, process information, and apply that newfound knowledge to solving problems. To study all mediators involved in this socio-technological process is an important job for media and cultural studies."

Sudmann's research will examine the role of media in generating AI products and technology along with tackling "black-box" transparency problems surrounding deep learning. He aims to unveil the mysterious facade of AI and examine how ANN, Transfer Learning and Computer Vision technologies must coalesce to help build advanced forms of AI-driven products. The spectrum of media relevant to this research ranges from the videos on which TwentyBN's AI system is trained to the virtual avatars with which users interact.

As the development of AI research has skyrocketed over the last eight years along with the subsequent avalanche of AI-driven products, many companies are riding this wave by exaggerating and mystifying what their intelligence is capable of. Sudmann's study will counter the myth of AI development.

"In the case of TwentyBN we are dealing with a company that is undoubtedly a leader in computer vision and AI-driven avatars. That's why it is extremely appealing to be able to conduct an ethnographic study on this particular company."

As a deep learning startup with strong roots in computer vision, specifically video understanding, TwentyBN has created a deep neural network for human activity recognition in real time that understands over 1,000 different types of human behaviors. The company's proprietary global data platform generates up to 50,000 videos each day, which it employs as real-world knowledge for its AI models. TwentyBN is currently developing an AI fitness app that offers on-demand and guided workouts with live form feedback from a virtual being that sees, listens, and understands.

Twenty Billion Neurons (TwentyBN) is a Microsoft M12-backed artificial intelligence startup committed to redefining the way humans interact with AI. With its unique AI platform for building visually-enabled virtual assistants, TwentyBN is leading the charge of democratizing on-demand, personalized coaching and companionship. Powering this mission is TwentyBN's deep expertise in computer vision, natural language processing and transfer learning to construct the brains of virtual beings with human behavior understanding capabilities. Slated for Spring 2020, TwentyBN's AI fitness app, Millie Fit, will offer users on-demand, guided and entertaining workouts with live form feedback from a virtual trainer that sees, listens, and understands. The Company is recognized as a Top 100 AI startup in 2019 by CB Insights and a Gartner Cool Vendor in AI Core Technologies in 2018. TwentyBN's technology is trusted by the world's leading businesses in technology, automotive, and consumer products, as well as over 40 of the world's top 100 universities.

Andreas Sudmann is a media scholar and AI researcher at Ruhr-University of Bochum, Germany. He is the author of several books, edited collections, and essays in the field of media and digital culture studies, including, most recently, The Democratization of Artificial Intelligence. Net Politics in the Era of Learning Algorithms (Columbia University Press/ Transcript 2019), "Games and Artificial Intelligence" (Special Issue of Eludamos. Journal for Computer Game Culture Vol. 10 (2019), forthcoming, and "Artificial Intelligences" / "Künstliche Intelligenzen", Journal for Media Studies / Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft Vol. 21 (2019).

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SOURCE Twenty Billion Neurons