The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) is committed to promoting the development of cutting-edge technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), and quantum computers, and is also actively engaged in popularizing science. Through its Industry-Academia Collaboration Plan for the Promotion of Science Productions, NSTC has facilitated cooperation between academic research institutions and the media industry to produce science films which can help the public familiarize themselves with more difficult scientific concepts and Taiwan's technological development.
At the 57th Golden Bell Awards on Oct. 21-22, 2022, the science series "Next, AI," jointly produced by NARLabs and Dong Tai Communication under NSTC's Industry-Academia Collaboration Plan for the Promotion of Science Productions, was nominated for Best Natural Science Documentary Show, Best Directing for a Television Show, and Best Art and Design for a Television Show. In the end, the series was honored with the Golden Bell Award for Best Natural Science Documentary Show.
"Next, AI" helps the public understand future directions for the development of AI robots by introducing promising scientific fields in Taiwan, such as biometrics and smart biomedicine, as well as AI R&D and applications, such as AI emotions and ethics. The Chinese title of the series includes a play on words with AI (artificial intelligence) and 'ài,' the Mandarin pronunciation of 'love,' which Dong Tai Communication revealed was inspired by people's concern about whether robots will one day have self-awareness. If AI has consciousness, will humans be replaced? Or would AI possibly overpower mankind? Even though current machine learning only imitates part of the neural network of the human cerebral cortex, with the rapid pace of technological development, some people feel that it wouldn't be unlikely for robots to pose a threat to human survival. "Next, AI" interprets standpoints regarding the development of AI, such as creating beneficial intelligence rather than letting AI evolve naturally and with no definite direction as if it were a living thing.
In three episodes totaling roughly 150 minutes, the series features a love story and introduces 18 different aspects of AI research. The love story stars Vera Yen and Justin Lee, who play a pair of university students passionate about the future of AI technology. Eventually, love sparks between the two, but after a car accident takes away the life of the male lead, his beloved continues feverishly studying AI technology to attempt to create a robot just like him. She gradually teaches the robot various capabilities, even having it mimic the young man's words and actions. Step by step, it learns to recognize faces, speech, and emotions. It can understand the human world, help doctors, and even create musical works. However, it cannot integrate emotion when doing so.
Surrounding the love story, the 18 AI research topics are laid out by scientists in a practical manner. These experts include National Taiwan University Professor Lin-shan Lee, who developed the world's first Chinese speech recognition system, Golden Mandarin III; Ethan Tu, the founder of Taiwan AI Labs, which invented the Yating Transcriber, and a team member who developed its source separation function; National Taiwan University Associate Professor Hung-Yi Lee, who has remodeled speech recognition systems; eLand Founder Willie Yang, who trained AI to speak Mandarin Chinese; Academic Sinica Associate Research Fellow Wei-Yun Ma, who developed the AI-specific Chinese dictionary E-HowNet, which covers more than 90,000 words learned by machines; Academia Sinica Institute of Information Science Director Mark Liao, who has had a profound impact on face recognition research in both academia and industry; National Taiwan University Professor Winston Hsu, who used disguised faces in machine deep learning for AI recognition; members of the NEC Taiwan team, who enabled machines to perform "liveness detection" of human faces; Taipei Medical University Professor Yu-Chuan Li, who summarized regulations that were once difficult to organize through statistical methods to solve safety problems in pharmaceutical and prescription drug labels; aetherAI CEO Joe Chao-Yuan Yeh, who completely digitalized histopathology slides; National Tsing Hua University Associate Professor Yi-Shin Chen, who has long been analyzing Internet texts and been involved in research on emotional recognition; National Tsing Hua University Professor Chuan-Kang Ting, who works to convince the public that AI must possess human ethics in order to make humane judgments; National Tsing Hua University Associate Professor Jeremy Chi-Chun Lee, who quantified, analyzed, and modeled human behavior using statistics and developed human behavior signal processing; and National Taiwan University Associate Professor Tsung-Ren Huang and National Chung Cheng University Professor Ser-Min Shei, who explore what exactly self-awareness is and how we can test if a machine is self-aware.
In fact, juggling both a drama and documentary in the same program is not an easy task. To break through established frameworks, producer Yuan Yuan arranged for two directors to direct the series at the same time. Film and advertising talent Shao-Yu Hsia directed the drama sections, while Fan-Chun Chang, who specializes in science documentaries, took over where scientists enter the scene. At the beginning, no one seemed to be impressed by this method of storytelling, but the two directors worked together seamlessly, linking drama and documentary to form a perfect work with both a touching drama and an in-depth introduction to scientific concepts, for which they were nominated for the Golden Bell Award for Best Directing for a Television Show.
In addition to the script, the direction, and the acting, technical support was also very important for the success of the series. The art team at Dong Tai Communication, Yu-Tzu Kuo, Chao-Yung Lu, Wen-Chieh Cheng, and Cheng-Yun Chan, succeeded in creating the perfect effect of the connection between life, emotion, and technology in the series as it takes place in both 1999 and the future. With their precise scenic design, they put the finishing touch on "Next, AI," leading it to a nomination for the Golden Bell Award for Best Art and Design for a Television Show.
This is the second time that NARLabs has won an award in collaboration with Dong Tai Communication, the first being the 2017 Golden Bell Award for Best Natural Science Documentary Show for "Trailblazers - Stories from the Laboratory." Now, "Next, AI" has significantly broadened science series production techniques, allowing both documentary and drama production talent to be utilized and helping Taiwan's capabilities in science communications to continue growing steadily through the support of NSTC's Industry-Academia Collaboration Plan for the Promotion of Science Productions.