VUB launches amai! platform to tackle social challenges

Project brings citizens and experts together to develop AI solutions for climate, health, mobility and work

Tuesday, May 4, 2021 — The imec-SMIT-VUB Knowledge Centre for Data & Society has launched the artificial intelligence project amai! The goal of the platform, developed with Scivil, the Flemish Knowledge Centre for Citizen Science, is to have experts and citizens develop AI solutions together for important social challenges. “The letters AI are in amai!, and that is no coincidence: with this ambitious project we want to involve the public in the direction that technological innovations using artificial intelligence are taking,’ says Pieter Duysburgh, operational lead at the Data & Society Knowledge Centre.

Every smart solution starts with a simple question. Take a spam filter as an example. This AI application was created because someone wondered if it would be possible to filter out irrelevant or unwanted emails. Amai! too initially looks for “simple? questions about important problems. The participants do not have to be experts in technology, as the platform also offers inspiring and accessible projects. For example, you can test how often you come into contact with AI in your daily life, because AI is often closer than you think.

From idea to implementation, the citizen is on board

On , anyone can share their questions and ideas for AI applications within four important themes: climate and environment, health, mobility and work. With experts and organisations that focus on one of the four themes, the ideas are then developed into solutions.

In preparation for the project, a preliminary study was carried out, which included a survey of people’s motivation to participate and their knowledge of AI. More information and the results of this survey can be found on the amai! website.

Questions and ideas can be posted on the platform until 8 June. The collected ideas will be elaborated into concrete research questions by citizens, theme experts and AI experts. Based on these ideas, a call will be launched to SMEs, organisations and researchers to develop one of the social applications, and those selected will receive financial support to develop it further in 2022. Duysburgh: “Citizens will also remain involved in the development of the projects. And because we are starting from the needs of society, when the amai! project is finished, there will be four new AI applications that are not only smart but also very useful.’

Flemish AI action plan

The amai! project is part of the Flemish AI Action Plan of the Department of Economy, Science and Innovation. The plan was launched in 2019 by innovation minister Hilde Crevits and focuses on research, implementation, ethics and training, to prepare both citizens and businesses for a future with artificial intelligence. Amai! aims to contribute to this.

Crevits: “Today, artificial intelligence is everywhere, in large and small applications. To increase the knowledge of the population about AI and to realise customised innovation, we call on every Fleming to think about how AI can solve a concrete question or problem. That way, our researchers can work on it with the contributors. We want to implement artificial intelligence more quickly and responsibly in society at large. As minister of innovation, I support this project and am already looking forward to the innovative solutions it will produce.’

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