Malte Jung, associate professor of information science in the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science and the Nancy H. ’62 and Philip M. ’62 Young Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow, along with two Cornell alumni, were awarded a six-figure seed grant from the Institute for Trustworthy AI in Law and Society (TRAILS) to explore trust building in embodied artificial intelligence systems.

Announced last week, Jung, along with Huaishu Peng, Ph.D. ‘19, and Ge Gao, Ph.D. ‘17, who are both assistant professors at the University of Maryland, College Park, are among eight teams that will receive TRAILS grants ranging from $100,000 to $150,000 each. The grants are intended to fund research and innovation around TRAILS’ primary research areas: participatory design, methods and metrics, evaluating trust, and participatory governance. 

Jung, Peng, and Gao will explore miniaturized on-body or desktop robotic systems that can enable the exchange of nonverbal cues between blind and sighted people. They will also examine multiple factors – both physical and mental – to gain a deeper understanding of both groups’ values related to teamwork facilitated by embodied AI.

Both Peng and Gao have connections to Cornell Bowers CIS: Peng received his doctoral degree in information science, while Gao received her doctoral degree in communication with a minor in information science.

“We are extremely pleased with the first round of projects,” said Valerie Reyna, the Lois and Melvin Tukman Professor of Human Development in the College of Human Ecology and leader of Cornell’s contribution to TRAILS. “Drs. Peng, Gao and Jung’s project epitomizes the potential of values-driven AI to improve human lives, while building trust and accountability.”

TRAILS was launched last year with a $20 million award from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The Institute’s focus is on “transforming the practice of AI from one driven primarily by technological innovation to one that is driven by ethics, human rights, and input and feedback from communities whose voices have previously been marginalized,” according to the website. To help carry out this mission, the institute leverages academic talent from its four primary institutions – Cornell University, the University of Maryland, George Washington University, and Morgan State University.