Andrew McStay (Professor of Digital Life) and Vian Bakir (Professor in Political Communication and Journalism) from Bangor University CAHB are leading a 3-year project jointly-funded by UK and Japan research councils as part of the UKRI-JST Joint Call on Artificial Intelligence and Society. The project seeks to answer how UK and Japanese societies can best live with technologies that sense, profile, learn and interact with people’s feelings, emotions and moods.
Emotional AI is rapidly appearing across diverse devices and city contexts as a fundamental component of personalisation, communication and embryonic media experience. Spilling from our devices into physical contexts, this already includes: ads in public spaces that analyse faces for negative and positive expressions and reactions, adapting to change its content to elicit more smiles; in-store profiling of emoting; cars that measure stress in drivers and personalise in-car experiences; classrooms that gauge student and teacher emotion and attention; and trials for use at national borders for lie detection. Other use cases include safety in high stress jobs, use with surveillance cameras at sensitive sites (such as travel hubs), in worker recruitment and telesales, and through cameras and wearables in workplaces. In short, these technologies will be deployed in any situation where there is value in understanding how people feel.
While Japan and UK are advanced nations in AI development and adoption, they differ in social, political, normative and techno-ethics histories. Other issues that will provide a rich scope for the team’s research include the logics of sensing technologies and the extent to which emotion display is universal across cultures; the nature of ethnocentric differences in social media usage and expression of online emotion; and potential differences between Japanese and European conceptions on what constitutes privacy and sensitive data.
Using a combination of elite interviews, national surveys, policy analysis, citizen focus groups and creative workshops, the team will co-design citizen-led, creative visions of what it means to live ethically and well with Emotional AI in cities. Ultimately, the project will feed the research insights, including citizens’ views, back to the diverse stakeholders, including governments, industry, technical standards developers, non-governmental organisations and educators shaping usage of Emotional AI in cities.