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Feed My Emotions – Interview with Paolo De Gasperis

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Rome, Italy

Author Paolo De Gasperis

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Feed My Emotions is an interactive digital game for children created by the Children’s Museum in Rome for the Liberty EU programme. Using cutting-edge technology, the game is designed to playfully help children recognise their emotions.

 

Paolo De Gasperis, Web, Digital Innovation and EdTech expert at Explora, il Museo dei Bambini di Roma, told us more about the project:

 

What does ‘Feed my Emotions’ do?

Feed My Emotions is a play-based interactive installation. Players are stimulated and challenged to feel an emotion that the machine randomly chooses. Emotions are coded according to a simplified version of Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions.

A sketch of the player’s face is drawn; a series of histograms show the emotions that their facial expression represents in that specific moment. If the parameters match the emotion of the challenge, then a cursor reaches 100% and facial feedback of the emotion chosen appears.

 

What is the aim of the game?

The aim of the game is twofold:

● to allow players to identify and map their emotions and match them to a specific facial expression.

● to think about the relationship we establish with machines.

Emotions are key components of humans and almost represent their essence; recognising a computer as a means to identify a human experience makes the experience estranged and turns a computer into a sort of empathic robot.

At the Children’s Museum, we have developed a teaching programme specialising in mapping emotions and their role in developing an empathic approach to communication.

This programme, which started in 2019, grew particularly interesting during the post-pandemic months when many children aged 5 to 9 years experienced two years of isolation from physical contact that impaired their ability to comprehend and express their emotions.

Feed My Emotions reaches a third goal, which provides children with a chance to challenge a machine, therefore a neutral element, devoid of human judgement.

The implicit coldness of Artificial Intelligence helps reach better expression skills and overcome shyness and limits of language.

 

What was the biggest technical challenge?

The biggest challenge was to reach a mixed audience of adults and children.

The AI algorithms used for face recognition are based on datasets presenting mainly adult visitors. Instead, our audience is mainly made up of children aged 3 to 10 years. This required adjusting systems and made emotion mapping even more complicated to fine-tune.

 

Is it difficult to tour with such cutting-edge technology?

The coolest thing about digital is its limit, too. It’s about something immaterial, after all, it’s as if it did not exist, therefore… no, not at all, it’s very easy to tour with such a technology, all it takes is to store it on the cloud and ask super efficient partners such as Art Reach to help us with hardware.

 

What do you see as the benefits of using AI for wellbeing exercises and development?

AIs are exactly a reflection of our expression, and I think they are amazing tools that help us better understand human beings.

The datasets used for machine learning are selected by humans and unsupervised learning carried out through AI sensors is also negotiated by algorithms written by humans.

Recently, an interview with Lambda has generated a stir when Google’s self-training AI appeared to be sentient. We should keep in mind that this software application – because, all in all, this is what it is – has been built just to look sentient, therefore we should not be surprised by a reflection in a mirror; their developers created neural networks to build a natural language thinking about its existence. We would never imagine that an AI of a Tesla could be sentient, although it rests on equally complex neural networks; we won’t think so because the AI of a self-driving car is meant to drive and not to think about itself.

Since the AIs are creative expressions of human beings, they will help us better understand the many facets of our nature.

Provided we start looking at them with sentience, this is definitely one of our prerogatives.

 

Feed My Emotions has already been part of the Festival of Vision in Rome in July and can be experienced in Leicester as part of Journeys Festival International on 13 August to celebrate the Liberty EU Finale season.

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