A quest to make AI understand emotions


While artificial intelligence has often been used to solve complex problems in areas such as marketing, healthcare, banking and finance, Zhou Jie, a PhD graduate in computer science from East China Normal University, is determined to leverage this technology for a more human cause-providing emotional comfort to elderly citizens and children living alone, while their children or parents work far away.

His ambitious goal to create algorithms that would allow AI to recognize human tones and expressions has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this month, Zhou, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Fudan University, was listed among the 10 people on the University Students of the Year 2021 honor roll.

Others on the list include Yang Qian, a student from Tsinghua University and a gold medalist at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in the women's 10m air rifle event.

The honor has been bestowed annually since 2019 by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Ministry of Education.

The idea behind the project, said Zhou, 28, was born when he noticed how senior citizens in his hometown of Chuji, a village in southwestern Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, always seemed lonely.

It's a common sight in villages. I know their children are working far away from home. At that moment, I thought of my parents and wondered how they felt about me studying in Shanghai, a place so far from home, Zhou said. This made me decide to embark on a career in affective computing.

Witnessing the rapid advance of technology in China, Zhou wants to work in affective computing, the study and development of systems and devices that can recognize and interpret human emotions.

Over the years, Zhou has published several papers in top international journals and attended global conferences such as those held by the Association for the Advance of Artificial Intelligence. He has even won international big data competitions four times.

Last year, Zhou took up an internship at the Alibaba DAMO Academy, a technological research institute launched by the Alibaba Group, to learn more about sentiment analysis.

Speaking of the honor he recently received, Zhou said he feels obliged to serve society more.

Zhou Aimin, vice-dean of the school of computer science and technology at East China Normal University, is among those confident that the 28-year-old will find success.

Zhou is proactive in doing scientific research. He was always discussing problems he encountered in class with me. I feel his passion and believe a bright future is waiting for him, he said.

Zhou Jie is a PhD graduate from East China Normal University. CHINA DAILY

Source:China Daily


East China Normal University