A new paradigm of ordinary differential equations

Aalto University and FCAI professor Harri Lähdesmäki has with his colleagues introduced a new paradigm of non-parametric ordinary differential equations modeling that can learn the underlying dynamics of arbitrary continuous-time systems without prior knowledge.

For many complex systems it is practically impossible to determine equations or interactions that would govern the underlying dynamics. In these settings, a parametric ODE model cannot be formulated. Lähdesmäki and his team have now overcome this issue. They propose to learn non-linear, unknown differential functions from state observations using Gaussian process vector fields within the exact ODE formalism.

They demonstrate the model’s capabilities to infer dynamics from sparse data and to simulate the system forward into future.

See article by Markus Heinonen, Cagatay Yildiz, Henrik Mannerström, Jukka Intosalmi, Harri Lähdesmäki, ‘Learning unknown ODE models with Gaussian processes’:

The paper has been accepted to the International Conference on Machine Learning ICML 2018.


Making efficient use of sensitive big data and keep it safe and private?

A new method developed by FCAI researchers of University of Helsinki and Aalto University together with Waseda University of Tokyo can use, for example, data distributed on cell phones while guaranteeing data subject privacy.

Modern AI is based on learning from data, and in many applications using data of health and behaviour the data are private and need protection.

Machine learning needs security and privacy: both the data used for learning and the resulting model can leak sensitive information.

Machine learning needs security and privacy: both the data used for learning and the resulting model can leak sensitive information.

Based on the concept of differential privacy, the method guarantees that the published model or result can reveal only limited information on each data subject while avoiding the risks inherent in centralised data.

In the new method, using distributed data avoids the risks of centralized data processing, and the model is learned under strict privacy protection.

In the new method, using distributed data avoids the risks of centralized data processing, and the model is learned under strict privacy protection.

Privacy-aware machine learning is one key in tackling data scarcity and dependability, both identified by FCAI as major bottlenecks for wider adoption of AI. Strong privacy protection encourages people to trust their data with machine learners without having to worry about negative consequences as a result of their participation.

The method was published and presented in December in the annual premiere machine learning conference NIPS: https://papers.nips.cc/paper/6915-differentially-private-bayesian-learning-on-distributed-data.

FCAI researchers involved in the work: Mikko Heikkilä, Eemil Lagerspetz, Sasu Tarkoma, Samuel Kaski, and Antti Honkela.


Yes, but did it work? Evaluating Variational Inference

While it’s always possible to compute a variational approximation to a posterior distribution, it can be difficult to discover problems with this approximation. Aalto University and FCAI professor Aki Vehtari proposes with his colleagues two diagnostic algorithms to alleviate this problem.

The Pareto-smoothed importance sampling (PSIS) diagnostic gives a goodness of fit measurement for joint distributions, while simultaneously improving the error in the estimate. The variational simulation-based calibration (VSBC) assesses the average performance of point estimates.

The paper by Yuling Yao, Aki Vehtari, Daniel Simpson, and Andrew Gelman, ‘Yes, but Did It Work?: Evaluating Variational Inference’ has been accepted to the International Conference on Machine Learning ICML 2018.


Open postdoctoral position in machine learning for inferring chemical toxicity

We are looking for a postdoctoral researcher with expertise in machine learning to work on a collaboration project between Professor Samuel Kaski’s team in Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence FCAI at Aalto University and Janssen Pharmaceutica. The exciting research problem is to learn to infer toxicity of chemicals based on the chemical structure, and the great opportunity is that we have unique data for the learning.

The successful candidate will be employed by Aalto University and work in Otaniemi campus (Helsinki, Finland) for the 1st year of the 2-year contract. During the 2nd year, the work will be performed at Janssen Pharmaceutica premises in Beerse, Belgium.

Read more and apply for the position at aalto.fi.

AI-created family trees confirm class divisions in Finland in the 18th and 19th century

The genealogy algorithm AncestryAI efficiently combines huge amounts of birth data.
It would take 100 person-years for a genealogist to map and find all the parents for five million people – with a rate of one person per minute. The AncestryAI algorithm can do the same work in an hour using 50 parallel computers and with a success rate of 65 per cent. The algorithm can also measure the level of uncertainty for each connection so that unreliable results can be ignored.

‘The algorithm does not replace the work of genealogists; it is simply a tool for helping them in their work. The genealogy algorithm can suggest connections which are probably correct, but on its own it is not as precise as a careful genealogist. The algorithm can also search for parents from nation-wide data, while a genealogist may need to limit their search to just one parish,’ explains Eric Malmi, doctoral student at Aalto University who currently works for Google in Zürich.

Malmi will defend his doctoral dissertation at Aalto University in June in the supervision of Aalto University professor and FCAI programme leader Aristides Gionis.


AI improves touchscreen interfaces for users with impairments

A new AI method adapts touchscreen interfaces to make more out of the capabilities of aging users and users with disabilities.

Researchers at Aalto University and FCAI, Finland, and Kochi University of Technology, Japan, developed a new algorithmic approach to user interface optimization that takes individual differences into account.

”The majority of available user interfaces are targeted at average users. This “one size fits all” thinking does not consider individual differences in abilities – the ageing and disabled users have a lot of problems with daily technology use, and often these are very specific to their abilities and the circumstances,” says postdoctoral researcher Jussi Jokinen at Aalto University.

”There are ways to automatically optimize the user interface, but this is efficient only if we have a realistic model of the user.  Previously, designers did not have detailed models that are based on psychological research and can be used to predict, how different individuals perform in interactive tasks."

Read more at aalto.fi.

FCAI Society: understanding and communicating AI across scientific divides

Solving the major technical hurdles in artificial intelligence, FCAI has now brought together the top expertise in both Aalto University and University of Helsinki in the technical development of AI.

However, we still need a holistic view and understanding of artificial intelligence across scientific borders in order to also engage the public in the changes AI will bring.

FCAI has sought experts from philosophy, ethics, sociology, legal studies, psychology and art to explore the impact AI will have in all aspects of our lives.

This cross-disciplinary group, FCAI Society, will in interaction with FCAI researchers consider the wide implications of AI research and furthermore the FCAI Society and FCAI researchers will together engage in public dialogue.

FCAI Society has teamed up with the event venue Think Corner at the University of Helsinki to expose AI research to public interest and scrutiny in an ongoing series of themed events: debates, discussions and demos.

FCAI Society will try to meet the pressing need to engage in dialogue and bridge scientific divides. We will deepen understanding on both sides: both of what is technically possible and how AI methods affect societal change and global equality. The lessons we have to teach each other we will take with us to the public domain and engage everyone in improving our common AI literacy. Here Think Corner’s events, which consistently reach hundreds of people in their prime location in the Helsinki city center and many more online, will have a prominent role.

The group will not remain fixed but expand and change according to the goals, research interests and ongoing projects within FCAI. This way we can have insight into the ways AI methods will live on and be taken up different societal settings. FCAI Society will also remain open to future research collaborations.

The initial composition of the FCAI Society, subject to change:

Hanna Haaslahti – artist
Raul Hakli – university researcher, ethics (University of Helsinki)
Sara Heinämaa – professor, philosophy (University of Jyväskylä)
Timo Honkela – professor, language technology, philosophy of AI (University of Helsinki)
Minna Huotilainen – principal investigator, cognitive science (University of Helsinki)
Riikka Koulu – assistant professor, legal studies (University of Helsinki)
Jaakko Kuorikoski – associate professor, philosophy (University of Tampere)
Krista Lagus – professor, digital social science (University of Helsinki)
Arto Laitinen – professor, philosophy (University of Tampere)
Turo-Kimmo Lehtonen – professor, sociology (University of Tampere)
Pekka Mäkelä – coordinator, ethics (University of Helsinki)
Kasperi Mäki-Reinikka – artist
Göte Nyman – professor emeritus, psychology (University of Helsinki)
Mika Pantzar – professor, consumer research (University of Helsinki)
Osmo Soininvaara – statistician, former government minister and member of parliament, Helsinki city council member
Petri Ylikoski – professor, science and technology studies (University of Helsinki) 

Leading trends in AI – a new weekly minisymposium by FCAI

FCAI launches a series of minisymposia on leading trends in Finnish AI research.


Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence FCAI launches a series of minisymposia on leading trends in Finnish AI research in conjunction with the weekly Machine Learning Coffee Seminars. The FCAI symposium series will provide an opportunity to catch up with the latest AI research and also for researchers already working on the field a chance to get to know what their colleagues are working on.

The first minisymposium themed Agile probabilistic AI takes place on 26 March at 9 AM in Otaniemi, CS Building, room T6. The symposium includes addresses of Professor Aki Vehtari, Professor Arto Klami and Dr. Henri Vuollekoski discussing recent development of Stan, automated variational inference and likelihood-free inference among others themes. See the abstracts and full program of the symposium: hiit.fi/mlseminar.

The future minisymposia will include sessions on simulator-based inference, privacy-preserving and secure AI as well as on interactive AI. See here for the full programme for the spring 2018.

The FCAI minisymposia are a part of the weekly Machine Learning Coffee Seminar series held jointly by the Aalto University and the University of Helsinki. The seminars aim to gather people from different fields of science with interest in machine learning. Seminars will be held weekly on Mondays. The location alternates between Aalto University and the University of Helsinki.

More information:
Kaisa Pekkala
Coordinator, FCAI
tel. +358 50 3020 921
firstname.lastname at aalto.fi

Pressing a button is more challenging than appears

Pressing a button appears easy, but the brain needs a probabilistic internal model to control a press. The action appears effortless and one easily dismisses how challenging it is. Researchers at Aalto University, Finland, and KAIST, South Korea, created detailed simulations of button-pressing with the goal of producing human-like presses.

The researchers argue that the key capability of the brain is a probabilistic model: the brain learns a model that allows it to predict a suitable motor command for a button. If a press fails, it can pick a very good alternative and try it out.

"This research was triggered by admiration of our remarkable capability to adapt button-pressing", tells professor Antti Oulasvirta of Aalto University. "We push a button on a remote controller differently than a piano key. The press of a skilled user is surprisingly elegant when looked at terms of timing, reliability, and energy use. We successfully press buttons without ever knowing the inner workings of a button. It is essentially a black box to our motor system. On the other hand, we also fail to activate buttons, and some buttons are known to be worse than others."

Free & open online course on "ELEMENTS OF AI" – by FCAI and Reaktor

FCAI will offer a free, open online course about Artificial Intelligence that aims to explain AI in understandable terms. No programming or math skills required.

Created together with leading service designers at Reaktor, the course is suitable for students, professionals and everyone interested in learning the fundamentals of a technology that will shape our common future.

The very first iteration of the course will begin on 14 May 2018, and run for three weeks.

Sign up for a newsletter to receive updates: www.elementsofai.com

How creative can algorithms grow? FCAI researchers in Yle News

Professor Jaakko Lehtinen of Aalto University and FCAI talked with the Finnish public broadcaster Yle on the adversarial neural networks developed with his research team at Nvidia. The networks Lehtinen and his colleagues created were able to create – on their own – life-like but artificial human faces by competing against each other at recognising whether a certain image is real or fake. The networks used a sample set of thousands of actual images of celebrity faces and then gradually went on to create convincing artificial faces. 

The story online (in Finnish): https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10115902

Lehtinen appeared also in the main news broadcast at Yle TV 1 yesterday talking about the creativity of algorithms. Also interviewed was Aalto University's Head of Research Strategic Support Ella Bingham, a PhD and Docent in data analysis and artificial intelligence herself. Bingham talked about what the top AI researchers in Finland are doing within FCAI, for instance, improving the mutual understanding of humans and machines.

News insert, starting at 10.20 (in Finnish): https://areena.yle.fi/1-4234984

Can computers create new songs?

Can computers create novel songs? At what point can computer software be called creative?

A team or researchers led by University of Helsinki and FCAI professor Hannu Toivonen, tackle these questions in their newly-published paper in Connection Science. They argue that a crucial element of creativity in software is its ability to self-monitor and self-modify its own operation. This ability is known as transformational creativity.

The research address many core topics of artificial intelligence: self-awareness, self-adaptation, and creativity of intelligent software.

"Our work furthers the explainability of AI and the ways intelligent systems and users can interact," says professor Toivonen.

In the paper, Toivonen and his colleagues provide a concrete and implemented architecture for transformation creation of songs. 

See the article: Jukka M. Toivanen, Matti Järvisalo, Olli Alm, Dan Ventura, Martti Vainio & Hannu Toivonen (2018), Towards transformational creation of novel songs, Connection Science, DOI: 10.1080/09540091.2018.1443320.


AI application for treatment of gestational diabetes

AI allows individualized predictions for expectant mothers and newborn children. The aim of the individual recommendations is a positive experience for the user combined with activity that is beneficial for the glucose level.

About 52,000 women give birth in Finland every year, and 18 per cent of them – nearly 10,000 – are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Of these, roughly half develop type 2 diabetes later on.

CleverHealth Network, an ecosystem coordinated by the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS), is now launching its first development project with funding granted by Business Finland. The main partners in the gestational diabetes project are HUS, Aalto University, the University of Helsinki, Elisa and Fujitsu. The project is run by FCAI researchers Pekka Marttinen ja Giulio Jacucci.

The project aims to improve the treatment and monitoring of gestational diabetes by developing a mobile application for measuring the mother’s blood glucose levels, physical activity, nutrition, pulse and daily weight and storing it in the cloud in real time.

Rid of routine coding – AI automates the construction of large information systems

A new technology under development in Aalto University will bring down development costs so much that complex systems can be built from scratch.

Business Finland has granted 678,000 euros to a team lead by Aalto University’s Jussi Rintanen for the commercialisation of a new information system technology based on artificial intelligence. Rintanen wants not only to automate the development of large information systems but also to integrate all parts of software development into a single functioning whole.

The Finnish government: AI will be the new normal

Last year, the Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs set up a working group to find out how Finland can and should commit to be in the forefront of artificial intelligence in industry, business and society at large.

The report and more information of the group's work is now available in English: tekoalyaika.fi/ai_will_be_the_new_normal
Download the entire report here as pdf.

In sum, the report presents eight key actions that guide Finland to the AI age.

Enhancement of business competitiveness through the use of AI
Effective utilisation of data in all sectors
Ensure AI can be adopted more quickly and easily
Ensure top-level expertise and attract top experts
Make bold decisions and investments
Build the world’s best public services
Establish new models for collaboration
Make Finland a frontrunner in AI

Aalto University #19 in the world and #4 in Europe in Human–Computer Interaction research

In the five-year period 2013–2018, Aalto University ranks #19 globally and #4 in Europe in Human–Computer Interaction research. In the past ten years (2008–18), Aalto’s the respective rankings are #22 # and #4.

The rankings are made by csrankings.com that pulls its data from the DBLP Computer Science Bibliography. The rankings are based on the volume of publications in each institution.

See full rankings here. 

FCAI partner universities are recruiting in AI – see open positions

State-of-the-art research and knowledge on AI and closely related fields are in great demand in Finland and in FCAI partner universities. Currently, there are several calls for everyone from exceptional doctoral students and postdocs to professors. See listing below for individual calls.

University of Helsinki
Four (4) professor positions in Data Science

Aalto University                                                                                                                        Professor in Artificial Intelligence (tenure track)
Review begins 25 January 2018; position open until filled.

Professor in Machine learning (tenure track or tenured)
NOTE: call not open anymore.

Aalto University and University of Helsinki
Several Postdoctoral Researcher and Research Fellow Positions in ICT

Linking two or more of the following themes:

  • artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • data science
  • privacy and security
  • computational health
  • human-computer interaction

Helsinki ICT network (Aalto University and University of Helsinki)
Positions for Exceptional Doctoral Students (NOTE: deadline 31 Jan 2018)

Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT & Institute of Molecular Medicine Finland FIMM
Five (5) open doctoral student positions



StanCon 2018 will be at Aalto University

The StanCon 2018 Conference on statistical modeling and probabilistic
programming will be in Helsinki at Aalto University 29–31 August.

Stan is a statistical modeling language used by thousands of scientists, 
engineers, and other researchers for statistical modeling, data analysis, and
prediction. It is being applied academically and commercially across fields as
diverse as ecology, pharmacometrics, physics, political science, finance and
econometrics, professional sports, real estate, publishing, recommender
systems, and educational testing.

See more info about, among other things, talks and poster submissions at:


Artificial photos created by two neural networks training together

A research group at NVIDIA trained neural network algorithms to teach each other to create artificial but photorealistic images of human faces. The team features FCAI professor Jaakko Lehtinen.

Read more here (New York Times).

Or if hit by the NYT paywall, here's Wired and professor Lehtinen on the subject: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/fake-images-video-nvidia-news-online-twitter-facebook-digital-forensics

Also a story in The Verge: https://www.theverge.com/2017/10/30/16569402/ai-generate-fake-faces-celebs-nvidia-gan