Arnav Jhala, a professor at NCSU who focuses on artificial intelligence, sees potential in the emerging field of artificial intelligence assistants (think Siri, Alexa, others) to expand beyond basic responses and information to providing some TLC – so to speak.

“My hope is when these devices are out there, developers will make apps that can be used for these deeper purpose,” Jhala told tech news site CNET in a recent interview.

The CES Show this week in Las Vegas is displaying the latest and best in AI technology, including a new “smart speaker” from Lenovo that utilizes Alexa from Amazon.

These technologies are quickly evolving and being adapted by their creators to provide more insightful answers as well as recommendations in the event of emergencies, CNET points out.

Jhala, an NCSU engineering graduate who once worked as a programmer at Triangle-based Virtual Heroes, has worked in the AI field for more than a decade. He says there is potential to take AI much closer to providing a sympathetic and helpful ear.

“As this technology gets refined, a lot of smaller players might jump in” to focus on health issues “and generate more activity around the concept at CES,” he told CNET.

Jhala is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at NCSU where he co-directs the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence cluster in Visual Narrative. He’s also thhe Associate Director for the Digital Games and Visual Narrative Research Center.

Before joining NCSU, Arnav was an associate professor of computational media at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he directed the Computational Cinematics Studio research group, according to his LinkedIn profile.

“His research centers around Artificial Intelligence, particularly in creating computational models of human skill, preferences, and co-ordination abilities,” his bio notes.

“These topics touch upon and contribute to several fields, such as automated planning, machine learning, preference modeling, cognitive systems, and intelligent storytelling. Arnav’s research methodology in investigating these questions has been to design systems, and analyze human performance and preference data with controlled and real-world studies. He has experience in both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis.”

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