The non-profit organization LAION has proudly announced the launch of the Open Empathic project. This initiative introduces an open platform dedicated to the development of an artificial intelligence model designed to recognize human emotions. The project’s cornerstone is the active participation of volunteers in creating the training data array.
LAION’s Genesis and Growth
Initiated at the beginning of 2021, the Large-scale Artificial Intelligence Open Network (LAION) was established by Christoph Schuhmann, a dedicated German schoolteacher, with the support of like-minded individuals from a Discord server for AI enthusiasts. Funding for LAION’s endeavors comes from various sources, including donations, government research grants, and strategic industry partnerships, such as with startups like Hugging Face and Stable Diffusion. Notably, LAION has been instrumental in creating datasets for training generative AI, featuring a unique combination of images and their corresponding textual descriptions.
The Vision of Open Empathic
The primary objective of the Open Empathic project is to develop an AI system capable of understanding more than just human language. According to Mr. Schuhmann, “We strive for it to capture nuances of expressions and changes in intonation, which will make human interaction with AI more authentic and empathetic.”
The Volunteer-Driven Initiative
In the project’s initial phase, LAION launched a website where volunteers are invited to contribute by providing descriptions for YouTube videos. These videos typically feature individuals speaking. Volunteers fill out a series of fields for each video, including a text transcript, descriptions of images and sounds, details about the video character’s age, gender, and language accent, as well as the level of emotional arousal and psychological vector (“pleasure” or “dissatisfaction”). There are also technical fields to assess sound quality and the presence of extraneous noise, but the primary focus lies on the emotional aspect.
Volunteers select suitable emotions from a ready-made list for each video from a drop-down menu. The creators of the Open Empathic project emphasize that this mechanism will facilitate the creation of an extensive database of emotional annotations, encompassing different languages and cultures. Volunteers can submit multiple reports, and LAION aspires to amass a database of 10,000 records in the near future, with the potential to grow to 100,000 to 1 million records in an optimistic scenario by next year.
The Ethical Consideration
While some human rights organizations have previously advocated for a complete ban on emotion recognition systems, it’s important to note that the European AI Law includes provisions that prohibit the use of such technologies by law enforcement agencies, border guards, workplaces, and schools. Several major companies, including Microsoft, have abandoned similar projects due to public concerns, notes NIXSolutions. However, LAION believes that the open, community-driven nature of the project gives them the moral authority to continue their work on Open Empathic, citing community-supported Wikipedia as an example.