Alibaba’s New AI Program can Create its Own Videos Using “Emotional Computing”

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4:24 PM HKT, Tue April 24, 2018 1 mins read

We can never tell if Alibaba’s research and development lab, DAMO Academy, is cooking up brilliant solutions to our everyday struggles, or inching us ever-closer to a cybernetic demise at the hands of AI.

The team’s most recent announcement is that they’ve collaborated with Zhejiang University to create a program that synthesizes and composes original videos, and promises capabilities for “emotional computing.”

The program is called Aliwood (yeah wow, we weren’t ready for that pun either), and here’s how it could be used: a seller on Taobao has a product, and wants buyers to engage with it. Buyers are human, and humans are drawn in by moving images. The seller plugs their product’s URL into the algorithm, and the computer automatically makes a short video based on its details. The AI can even select background music to elicit a desired emotional response from the viewer.

In announcing the program, Alibaba claimed that by adding music offline shops can “increase sales by 2-5 times”, while online shops with music and video components are likely to see around a 40% rise in their “shareability”.

“At the moment, 90% of shops on Taobao use pictures and text,” Fu Limin, who heads up the user experience arm of the DAMO Academy, stated during Aliwood’s launch at last weekend’s Yuan Design conference. “Outlets would like to have video, but the fee for getting a professional to create something can be expensive.”


Programming software that can understand and manipulate human emotions might sound like a tall order. But with machine learning, it could be easier than we think. Professor Shi Yuanchun, director of Alibaba’s Institute of Human-Computer Interaction, explains:

As far as computing is concerned, there’s nothing we can do without formulas. Our advantage is that we can convert any human performance-related research into a computable algorithm to improve the human-computer interaction.

The software judges songs based on indexes of high to low energy, and positive to negative emotion, favoring songs that are perceived as high-energy and positive.

It all sounds pretty cool, but we’re going to have to see one of these computer-generated videos in action before we say anything else. What if they suck? Really, we’re just insecure now that AI is coming for the creative industry. Here’s hoping it’s a catastrophic failure. Long live humans.

Photo: Yuan Design

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