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Artificial intelligence needs more than artificial trust

The technology that makes facial recognition possible is paving the way for machines to recognise feelings, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK



The great irony of artificial intelligence (AI) and devices that recognise our voices, faces and fingerprints is that they are oblivious to our thoughts and feelings.

“We need to rethink our relationship with technology,” says Rana el Kaliouby, co-founder and CEO of an AI company called Affectiva. “Machines know a lot about us but are completely oblivious to our emotional and cognitive states. Yet, AI is going to change only the way we connect with our devices, but it will fundamentally change the way we connect and communicate with human beings.”

She is speaking in a packed out session at Dell Technologies World in Las Vegas, where more than 15,000 paying delegates are receiving a deep dive into topics as diverse as cloud computing and sustainability of the oceans. Her concern is that, as much as machines need to win the trust if humans, so humans must also win the trust of machines. That sounds absurd for inanimate objects, but this form of artificial trustwill be essential in a future where machines will be expected to assess both our identities and our moods, not to mention our needs.

El Kaliouby earned a PhD in machine learning at CambridgeUniversity, and helped found Affectiva in Boston, USA, to put into practice her research.

“I spent the last 20 years working to build algorithms that understand people’s emotional states, cognitive states, and apply them to the technology around us that makes them more effective.”

The reality, she discovered, is that as we imbue machines with greater intelligence, we must also imbue ourselves with a greater ethical mission.

“We need a news social contract between humans and machines. It’s a two way street. Can AI trust humans? And what will it take to have reciprocal trust? There are a lot of examples of where it goes wrong, like the chatbot on Twitter that became racist, a self driving car that kills people, and a face recognition system that discriminates against people, especially women of colour.

“Sometimes trust is explicit, but most times it is implicit, manifested in subtle interactions like tone of voice and facialexpression. The core of that is empathy. People who havehigher empathy tend to be more liable to be trusted andtherefore more persuasive and tend to be more successful in their personal lives.

“We can’t work with people we don’t trust, and I argue it is the same with AI. We have a lot of common intelligence but not enough emotional intelligence. What if a computer can tell the difference between a smile and smirk? Both involve the lower half of face but have very different meanings.”

She gives the example of the contrast between physical healthcare and mental healthcare. When people walk into doctors rooms they don’t ask what their temperature or blood pressure is, they just measure it. But in mental health care, the practitioner must ask, typically on a scale of 1 to 10, how much the person is hurting.

“The science of emotions has been around for over 200 years,since Duchenne de Boulogne mapped out stimulation of human muscles, through to a modern facial action coding system. It takes a 100 hours of training to become a professional facial analyser. It’s very time-intensive, and it’s not scalable. We use machine learning and big data and tons of computing power to speed up that process. Imagine when that becomes instant?”

The most immediate practical application of the technology is likely to be in the automotive sector, and long before self-driving cars become the norm. However, it is with cars that can switch between human-control and self-driving that the technology will come into its own.

“Our system detects four levels of drowsiness. If you are able to detect that in real time, the car can intervene in a number of ways to make it a safer driving experience. It can tell if you are using your cellphone while driving. By detecting eye gaze direction and using object detectors, the system tells us you’re not keeping your eyes on the road and looking at a smartphone. 

“How can a car react if it senses you’re distracted or drowsy? It can start with an alert. If the vehicle is semi-autonomous, it can say ‘I can be a better driver than you’, and it can take over control.

“Ina  few years, with robo-taxis, the car will still need to understand how many people are in the vehicle, what’s the mood in there, are people stressed or enjoying the ride and, if not, how can we craft the riding experience to make it more enjoyable?”

She points out that luxury car brands are in stress, because their marketing message revolves around the driving experience. Once the owner is no longer driving, the experience will still remain the key.

That, however, does not address the subtle ethical concernsthat are somewhat more nuanced than a car killing its passengers. Many supposedly cutting edge systems useCaucasian faces to “train” the algorithms to become intelligent and distinguish between faces. The result is that they have difficulty identifying non-Caucasian faces. Even within this sub-set, however, there are cultural differences that affect expressions. Affectiva addressed the issue from the start.

“We have amassed 5-billion facial frames from around world,” says El Kaliouby. “We collect spontaneous facial expressions as people go about their daily activity, and there are numerous cultural and gender differences. Women are more expressive than men but it differs by culture. So in theUK there is no significant difference, but in the USA there is a 40% difference.

“Our data is diverse, not only by gender and culture, but also context, like wearing glasses, or blurry photos, as well as by gender, age, and race diversity. It’s not perfect, but at least we are thinking about it and trying to avoid accidentally discriminating based on ethnicity.”

• Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee


Appdate: No wallet? No problem?

In his app roundup, SEAN BACHER highlights VodaPay Masterpass, Charge Running, South African App Integrator Directory, uKheshe Health and LocTransie.



VodaPay Masterpass

Digital mobility is now a way of life and most are using smartphones to pay bills. 

To meet this need Vodacom and Mastercard have launched VodaPay Masterpass, which enables Vodacom customers to load any bank card into a secure digital wallet, downloaded as an app on their smartphone. Once loaded, these cards and the secure credentials associated with them are safely stored, enabling customers to start transacting immediately without the hassle of entering card details each time they make a purchase.

Vodacom customers can buy prepaid data, airtime and SMS, or voice bundles, directly through the app. They can also select the Pay Bills menu option to settle their DStv accounts, pay a utility bill or take care of a traffic fine.

With the app’s Scan to Pay functionality, users can scan a QR code to pay for goods and services wherever Masterpass is accepted, including all SnapScan and Zapper merchants. Once a QR code is scanned, users select the card they wish to use, and enter their bank PIN number on their own device to complete the transaction.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download and users will not be charged for any transaction fees.

Stockists:  Download VodaPay Masterpass for iOS here and for Android here.

Charge Running

Most running apps track data like pace and distance and, in some cases play audio designed to motivate you, but don’t give you the push you get when you run with a friend. Charge Running is an app that lets you run alongside other runners, virtually, as well as giving live coaching to help you go the distance.

The app includes features such as:

·       Unlimited access to live running classes and virtual races  

·       The ability to compete with runners anywhere in the world in real-time

·       A live leaderboard that shows where you are in the pack to keep you pushing

·       Live, personalised feedback from professional trainers 

·       Group chats with coaches and fellow runners throughout the run

·       On-demand runs for times when you can’t join the live groups 

·       A choice of difficulty levels and race types 

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free seven-day trial; thereafter R150 per month

Stockists: Visit the Charge Running site here for downloading instructions.

South African App Integrator Directory

The South African App Integrator Directory from Xero is designed to solve the complexity of choosing apps for small business owners.

The directory is now available in South Africa with six partners, including Realm Digital, Radical Cloud Solutions, Nimacc, Insights, Iridium Business Solutions and Creative CFO. According to Xero, these are all organisations with a proven track record of successfully integrating marketplace apps into Xero businesses. There are also currently over 700 apps in Xero’s App Marketplace worldwide, 21 of which are South African born.

As small businesses become more tech-savvy, they need to know exactly which apps to install on their devices and how the apps will help them. They also need to be able to install these apps from a trusted integrator so they know for what they are paying. 

Platform: Any device with an up-to-date Internet browser.

Expect to pay: A one month trial version is offered, after which the App Integrator ranges from R125 to R245 per month, depending on the company’s needs.

Stockists: Visit Xero here for downloading instructions.

Click here to read about uKheshe Health and LocTransie.

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Prize offered for drone films



DJI and SkyPixel, the world’s most popular aerial photography community, have announced the first short film contest inviting users to submit cinematic stories shot with camera and gimbal products. The 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest will accept entries until 14 October 2019. It welcomes submissions from all creators, ranging from hobbyists to social media users and professional videographers. around the globe.


The 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest consists of three storytelling categories—‘Big Moments Start Small,’ ‘Make Your Move’ and ‘Adventure Starts With You.’ There is no restriction on the type or brand of equipment participants use, and they can submit as many videos as they wish.

A total of 100 winners can win a range of prizes totaling $48,600 USD in categories including Recommended Films, Best Editing, Best Story, Nominated Entries, People’s Choice Prize as well as This Week’s Most Popular, sponsored by the partner SanDisk and WD brand from Western Digital Corp. This year’s Best Short Video winners will each receive the new Ronin-SC Pro Combo, Osmo Action as well as WD 2TB My Passport Wireless SSD.

Winning entries will also be showcased on the SkyPixel website as well as to DJI’s millions of fans and followers across its social media platforms.

“DJI has redefined how people capture stable video for all of life’s moments. The compact size, portability and powerful imaging system of our Osmo and Ronin series have also made it possible for anyone to take their creativity and inspirations to the next level,” said Basile David, Director of Brand and Content Partnerships at DJI. “With this contest, we hope to encourage more people to embrace and share their own creative way of storytelling.”

Since 2014, the SkyPixel online community has attracted 16 million professional aerial photographers and content creators from more than 140 countries, growing into the largest aerial photography community today. Over the past five years, SkyPixel has received over 150,000 submissions, becoming a go-to platform for original aerial masterpieces and extraordinary footage powered by other gimbal products focusing on various themes.

Details of the 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest

The short film contest consists of three categories:

Big Moments Start Small: Create a video showcasing the small, lightweight design of your camera device and your best cinematic scenes. Users are recommended to include at least 10 seconds of behind-the-scenes clips of their product such as DJI Osmo Pocket or other devices.

Make Your Move: Create a video showcasing the stabilized footage from your device. Users are recommended to include at least 10 seconds of behind-the-scenes clips of their product such as DJI Osmo Series or other devices.

Adventure Starts With You: Create a short, cinematic narrative film to showcase your creative skills and visual effects. Users are recommended to include at least 10 seconds of behind-the-scenes clips of their product such as DJI Ronin Series or other devices.

*Video submissions should not be longer than three minutes in length.

Submission Details

Submission Start Date: August 15, 2019, 2:00 AM (EST)

Submission End Date: October 14, 2019, 2:00 AM (EST)

Award Announcement: October 31, 2019

Interested participants can visit the 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest website for more information on contest rules and guidelines. For more information, contact:

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