On February 16 and 17, Tibor Bosse (RU) and Koen Hindriks (VU) gave a 2-day course for PhD students on ‘Social AI’. The course was organized under the auspices of the research school SIKS, in collaboration with NeFCA. The course took place in Hotel Mitland in Utrecht, and was attended by over 40 PhD students from different disciplines.

The main purpose of the course was to provide an overview of the emerging field of Social AI, which aims to develop Artificial Intelligence systems that have the ability to engage in natural social interaction with human beings. It is a multi-disciplinary field combining insights from social psychology and AI to improve and design effective interactive technology. This includes, e.g., social robots, virtual humans and conversational agents.

From a technical perspective, social AI aims to develop new algorithms to endow social AI systems with more human-like abilities to understand and generate social behaviour (e.g., using techniques such as emotion recognition and natural language processing). From a social psychology perspective, social AI studies the psychological effects of interacting with social AI systems on people’s perceptions and behaviour. From an applied perspective, social AI systems can be used for various practical purposes such as social skills training and behaviour change.

The program of the course included eight lectures by speakers from different institutes in the Netherlands, which addressed topics ranging from robotics and chatbot technology to social psychology and ethics. Amongst the speakers was Evelien Heijselaar from Radboud University (see picture).