V.K. SANTOSH KUMAR
While the world is still trying to understand the full capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI), a young innovator from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) has made vast strides in the development of its conversational mode.
Assistant Professor Soujanya Poria’s groundbreaking work in the field, which includes the creation of several multimodal understanding and generative systems, has been recognised by the prestigious MIT Technology Review magazine, which placed him in its 2023 list of 35 promising young innovators from the Asia-Pacific.
It was announced on Nov 2 at a ceremony held in conjunction with the Global Youth Science and Technology Forum in Zhejiang, China.
The list honours innovators under 35 for their work in shaping the future of technology in various fields such as AI, biotechnology and health business, as well as climate change and energy.
“I am both honoured and humbled to be part of this highly prestigious list,” said Prof Poria. “It was made possible with the support of my team as we continue to enhance the safety, trustworthiness and ethical standards of Large Language Models (LLMs).”
The 31-year-old AI specialist is the sixth SUTD professor to make the list and the only one selected under the Visionaries category, which recognises innovators for their insights into the future of technology.
Prof Poria has introduced innovative techniques that integrate diverse modalities, including text, visuals and speech, to comprehensively discern human emotions and various other facets.
One of his creations is a text-to-audio AI model called Tango, which produces sound effects, including human speech and music, from text. For instance, users can type “make the sound of a barking dog with a huge waterfall behind it”, and the system will produce the sound within a second.
This advanced approach holds significant promise for accurately detecting the mental health of patients, and even contributing to a nuanced understanding of child behaviour in early education settings.
Prof Poria’s work is funded by several government agencies. He is currently trying to create LLMs that do not “hallucinate” (generate unfaithful answers), and are safe to use, accessible and adaptable.
“Soujanya’s contributions to the multimodal conversational AI has been nothing short of spectacular,” said SUTD President Chong Tow Chong. “The research he is currently undertaking could significantly improve the ability of computers to interpret complex data and provide valuable information to users. We look forward to many more breakthroughs in his AI research.”
For his contribution to the field of science, Prof Poria was awarded the Young Scientist Award at the President’s Science and Technology Awards last month, the highest accolade for research scientists and engineers in Singapore.
For his extensive work in AI, he was also recently ranked 441 among more than 356,000 scientists in the world by Stanford University.