”You shouldn’t be worried by AI”

Outside, the snow is whirling heavily. It’s been snowing for days, and more of it is on its way. Diego Navarro says, with a faint smile: – I love this weather. I’m told it’s not very popular, but to me it’s quite exotic.

Diego is Ph.D at BTH, and a multimedia engineer. His path to Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden was different than to many other students.

– I was studying something entirely different at home. Then I came across a book which I absolutely devoured.

”At home” is Colombia in South America. The book turned out to be written by Veronica Sundstedt, head of department of creative technology and Ph.D in computer graphics at BTH. The book he had found was ”Gazing at Games – An Introduction to Eye Tracking Control”.

By then, Diego Navarro didn’t know anything about Sweden except from ABBA and Volvo. Yet he went for it, and decided to go to Sweden to study. He arrived in 2011 and took his Master’s degree at BTH.

Now he’s working with Veronica, dividing his time between research on human-computer interaction, and virtual reality. One of his main tracks, AI (artificial intelligence) is a subject that stirs many emotions. But when asked if there really is any cause for concern, he laughs. He laughs a lot.

-AI in itself isn’t dangerous. It only recreates human activity. What we really need to worry about is the humans behind it, and for what the algorithms of AI is used.

He shows his laboratory at BTH. Two screens are placed next to each other. One of them is an eye-tracker, a screen which captures eye movements through infrared light. The other one is an ordinary computer screen.

He then picks up an EEG-sensor from a box, a kind of headpiece with electrodes. It’s meant to be placed on your head. The correct term for the sensor is ”neural actuator”. If the eye-tracking screen and the sensor is used together, they can measure different types of brain activity during visual impulses.

This opens a world of possibilities. The combined abilities can be used in the gaming world to experience a game without traditional controls. It can also be of benefit for those who are unable to use a mouse or a keyboard. With its help, it’s possible to research different behavioural patterns at visual impressions. For example, how we read texts on a screen, or other reactions to images. The applications are virtually unlimited.

Diego Navarro says he has really found his place in life.

-There are so many fantastic things in being a researcher. You have access to the latest technology. You can share your ideas with so many interesting people all around the globe. You are constantly faced with new questions and challenges. In short, you’re the eternal student – probably one of the best things with this.

The capacity of computers to read human behaviour will only grow, he believes. And so will the interaction between computers and humans.

– Imagine this, he says. – You already have a computer in your pocket, your mobile phone. It already knows so many things about you. If you have a bad day, and your mobile can track your feelings and give you advice on who you could call, that is something good. Technology is really helping us to connect rather than disconnect to other people. So – one shouldn’t worry too much, he says.

19 March 2018