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Give machines a human face and make the world a better place

20 February 2019
But can we trust interactive digital humans?
The Business School’s Mike Seymour, believes that an age of computers with emotionally engaging human digital faces is just around the corner raising issues of ethics and trust.
Mike Seymour wearing headgear

Mike Seymour


Researcher Mike Seymour’s mission in life isn’t an unusual one. Like many of others, Mike wants to make the world a better place. It’s the way that he intends to do it that makes his mission an interesting one.

Mike plans to take cutting edge technology from the entertainment industry and “apply it in a wider business context for the good of all”.

Mike, whose designation at the University of Sydney Business School is ‘digital human researcher’, has been working for some years with like-minded researchers around the world on faces for a wide variety of applications.

“We are now just on the edge of being able to produce photo realistic faces that you can’t tell aren’t real,” he recently told a TEDx audience in Sydney. “How would you feel if your computer reacted to you with a smile?”

Mike went on to talk about using digital faces to improve communications with the aged and the sick. “Would a six year old learn maths more easily with a six year old teacher on the screen?” he asked.

However, he also warned of the power that might be invested in a “digital human” and of the ethical issues involved in choosing its race, age and gender. Mike is particularly concerned about the issue of trust. “How do we trust artificial intelligence,” he asked.

On balance, Mike Seymour believes in the overwhelming benefits flowing from technology with a human face, but also believes that the humans who build the technology must be fully aware of the responsibility they shoulder when they give a machine an emotional dimension.

Trevor Watson

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