CAROUSEL pushes the limits of digital communications

Thursday, 14 January, 2021
Dancing with wearable devices and AI-driven characters
CAROUSEL, a new Pathfinder project, paves the way for emergence of social- physical behaviour of digital characters by better understanding human body-language and being capable to interact autonomously with a group of people.

CAROUSEL was selected among proposals submitted for FET Proactive Emerging Paradigms and Communities call (FETPROACT-EIC-07-2020), in subtopic A: Artificial Intelligence for extended social interaction.

CAROUSEL will conduct high-risk research by aiming to develop digital characters to interact autonomously with a group of people in a meaningful way. Such a concept could extend the perspectives of digital communication technologies. The research team explains it further:

We have the vision that, with the support of novel, original and imaginative combinations of Artificial Intelligence and immersive interaction technologies, people will be able to feel each other’s presence, touch, and movement, even if they are physically disconnected.”

CAROUSEL reacts to the challenges raised by ongoing experience with COVID-19 restrictions, especially as what concerns the importance of relationships and interpersonal contacts for human wellbeing. The researchers continue:

“Isolation and loneliness are distressing and debilitating and have long-lasting consequences for health, including mental health, productivity, and happiness. The current Covid-19 crisis and the consequent social distancing, confinement and lockdown have made the problem more acute and visible for the whole of society. The ways in which we stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues and take part in social events will probably change forever.”

The success of the project, which wants to create a new research path to design AI-enabled digital characters equipped with knowledge of the social body language and ability to interact in a social and physical way with humans, could change the way, how we think about virtual and extended reality. The CAROUSEL team gives us a particular example:

“Imagine you feel lonely at home and wish to dance with somebody. You invite both your real friends and AI-driven characters for a virtual house party in your living room to dance together. You can feel their touch and dancing bodies next to you and you are all enjoying this spontaneous party. You feel connected to the others and not lonely anymore.”

The 48-month project starts in January 2021. Participants of the project come from Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Finland. The coordinating institution is German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence. The Carousel Consortium looks forward to begin with research:

“We are enlightened to have won the Carousel proposal and to kick off the project in January 2021. We want to create together a sustainable innovation ecosystem of young talents around a new research path to design AI enabled digital characters which understand the social body language and can interact in a social and physical way with humans. The innovation perspective of this new branch “Real-World Social and Physical AI” is tremendous as it can be applied to many applications in many areas, for physically interacting in a meaningful social way. In particular digital characters in the future could act as physical trainers, dancers, entertainers, actors, co-workers, health assistants, guides, educators, spectators, physical therapists and companions.”

Background information

FET-Open and FET Proactive are now part of the Enhanced European Innovation Council (EIC) Pilot (specifically the Pathfinder), the new home for deep-tech research and innovation in Horizon 2020, the EU funding programme for research and innovation.

Picture: © CAROUSEL project