Opinions & People

Staying In Focus with… Professor Nadia Thalmann

by Samar Al-Montser

Despite having created a robot in her likeness, Professor Nadia Thalmann, a panellist for WIEF’s Global Discourse on artificial intelligence, doesn’t think AI can render humans obsolete.

Professor Nadia Magnenat Thalmann,
Director at Institute for Media Innovation School of Computer Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

How would you explain AI to a five-year-old?
I am not a child expert but I’d say that a robot has programmes like us in our brain that allows her to speak, see and answer questions.

Why did you develop robot Nadine?
Since many years, we have been working in my lab in Geneva, MIRALab, on social robots and I was always interested to model humans. I started 25 years ago to model virtual humans and more recently, on social robots. I am quite interested to model humans and understand their behaviour, and show a result on virtual humans or social robots.

What will you bring to the table at WIEF’s Global Discourse on AI on 15 May 2017?
It’ll be on social robots. Not specifically on AI, which is only a part of the methods we use.

I feel that we need embodied machine and not just computers.

I feel [it is] more pleasant to have a social robot next to me to whom I can talk than to speak to a computer or invisible Siri for example.

How is AI progressing in Singapore?
It is a hot topic in Singapore and most researchers adopt AI for all their research topics.

What is the future potential of AI?
As such, not really a future except that AI methods will be more and more used and more efficient all the time. There will be hardly a new method developed without using the AI algorithms and deep learning.

Why should people be interested in AI?
Because AI gives better results than previous deductive methods and thanks to big data as well as deep learning methods, we obtain faster and better results. All researchers have to move to this kind of relatively new methods to gather better results in recognition of objects, people, images, on generating movements and the like.

Can AI render humans obsolete in a society?
I don’t think so at all. AI with deep learning methods work very differently as how we think ourselves. We are more adaptive and subtle and more aware of everything. Robots using AI are tools to help us but it will not make us obsolete at least for decades, if at all.


Read more from other panellists of WIEF’s Global Discourse on A.I., Professor Anton Nijholt, and Professor Dr Zyed Zalila.
Find out a little more on A.I.

13 Apr 2017
Last modified: 3 Sep 2018
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