Finland takes creative approach to AI
The arrival of the AI-produced social media influencer Milla Sofia is ushering in a new era of marketing for smaller businesses.Milla Sofia / Instagram
Artificial intelligence (AI) is powering greener construction, tailored gameplay, prisoner skill development, a popular science book and an influencer campaign.
Spectarium Games, an Oulu-based developer of role-playing games, in September reported that it has closed a seed funding round worth five million euros to scale up its team and develop the gameplay of its upcoming maiden title, Myths.
The round was led by BITKRAFT Ventures.
Scheduled for release to targeted audiences in 2024, Myths is “a dungeon crawling experience” that is tailored to the individual preferences of each player, not dissimilarly to TikTok. The journey of one player can therefore revolve around boss battles, while that of another revolves around navigating through a temple.
Underpinning the game, as its narrative backbone, is an artificial-powered game engine that intuitively aligns gameplay with player choices and evolving game maps.
Jasper Brand, partner at BITKRAFT Ventures, said the early-stage investment fund believes content creation to be one of the most promising forms of artificial intelligence-enabled creativity – one with the potential to bring about a paradigm shift in studio economics.
According to Jasper Brand, partner at BITKRAFT Ventures, content creation is one of the most promising forms of artificial intelligence-enabled creativity.Spectarium
“Spectarium’s approach unlocks highly personalised and endlessly customisable gameplay experiences while expanding on proven action role-playing game systems with the team’s deep genre expertise and harnessing the global intellectual property of ancient myths to engage diverse player bases across platforms,” he viewed.
Becoming more AI literate
Hannu Toivonen, professor of computer science at the University of Helsinki, has released a book in a bid to lift the veil from what for many remains a hazy or mysterious domain: artificial intelligence.
“I wrote the book to explain the interesting and important issues surrounding the topic to the general public and tackle some prejudices and misunderstandings,” he commented in September.
Some of the misconceptions and tendencies he hopes to dispel are the agency, humanisation and neutrality of artificial intelligence systems. Such systems, he reminded, inevitably reflect the biases and values of their creator or the material used to train them.
“AI doesn’t, for instance, ‘crack our passwords,’ as has been claimed in some newspaper headlines. It’s we humans who use computer software to crack passwords,” he illustrated. “When a machine uses language, we believe it too has thoughts to communicate even though it functions on the basis of statistical language models rather than understanding the meaning of words.”
Written in Finnish, in an accessible and popular style with only few technical terms, the book lays down 100 questions and answers surrounding the emerging technology.
“People seem to be yearning for information on AI right now,” observed author Hannu Toivonen.Linda Tammisto
“If it had been a scholarly book, I would have written it in English. But I think it’s best to write a popular science book in your own language to be able to express yourself in a more nuanced way. I wrote this book to promote Finnish AI literacy, and I believe it’s easier to do that with a book written originally in Finnish rather than a translation.”
Toivonen embarked on the project in mid-2022. Despite the advances witnessed in the domain since, including the public launch of ChatGPT, he believes the book will remain relevant for years to come.
“It’s not about individual programs or technical solutions, but about principles and concepts, and principles change slowly,” he explained.
Click-work behind bars
Metroc has turned to prisoners in developing its artificial intelligence-powered platform that helps construction companies to find newly approved building projects.
The Finnish startup currently provides inmates in three prisons the opportunity to help to train the large-language model underpinning the platform for an hourly compensation of 1.54 euros, according to Wired. The inmates essentially answer yes-or-no questions about real estate-related chunks of text derived from newspapers and official documents in order to train the model to distinguish between, for example, projects that are and are not hiring.
The prison system, in turn, can offer inmates employment that it believes can prepare them for the digital world of work after their release.
These so-called click-workers are far from rare globally. Technology firms use workers chiefly in the global south to train their models to distinguish various objects in images and detect descriptions of violence, for example – an arrangement that works for companies operating in English but not necessarily in Finnish.
Metroc recently raised two million euros in funding.Metroc
Although the arrangement has raised some ethical questions, the employment project enjoys widespread support in Finland.
“There’s this idea of what data labour is. And then there’s what happens in Finland, which is very different if you look at it closely,” Tuukka Lehtiniemi, researcher at the University of Helsinki, said to Wired.
Metroc recently also raised two million euros to expand across the Nordics. CEO Jussi Virnala told the American monthly magazine that the investors were intrigued by the startup’s connection to prisons.
“Everyone was just interested in and excited about what an innovative way to do it,” he said. “I think it’s been really valuable product-wise.”
An alternative approach
Also in the construction sector, Betolar, a materials technology company, announced last month it has secured a 2.7-million-euro grant for a research and development project to identify and evaluate alternative side streams with the potential to replace cement in concrete production. The roughly two-year project will also seek to develop standardised methods for processing and using the materials in construction.
Jarno Poskela, chief technology officer at Betolar, pointed out that existing construction standards are limiting the use of new materials in concrete and other building products.
“This project aims to change this situation, offering the industry the opportunity to use side streams and promote sustainability,” he said.
The aims align with the company strategy, which focuses on identifying, developing and commercialising side streams suitable for use in building materials. Geoprime, the flagship solution of Betolar, converts industrial side streams into a cement substitute, enabling the production of low-carbon concrete while reducing material costs.
Geoprime, the flagship solution of Betolar, converts industrial side streams into a cement substituteBetola / Niki Soukkio
The goals align with the company strategy, which focuses on identifying, developing and commercialising side streams suitable for use in building materials. Geoprime, the flagship solution of Betolar, converts industrial side streams into a cement substitute, enabling the production of low-carbon concrete while reducing material costs.
“To bring new side streams into the value chain, research needs to be accelerated,” emphasised CEO Riku Kytömäki.
“From a market and business perspective, change is rapid and the need for new raw materials is strong. There is already a significant over-demand for blast furnace slag, which cannot be relied upon for growth alone.”
Provided by Business Finland, the grant will cover approximately half of the expected project costs.
Betolar has also developed an artificial intelligence-powered innovation that promises to reduce reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by optimising manufacturing processes, supporting solution development with advanced analytics and creating a global market for side streams.
Tyyliluuri, a Finnish online shop for phone accessories, has started collaboration with Milla Sofia, a virtual influencer created with artificial intelligence that has almost 200 000 followers on social media.
The announcement by the company is notable in that it represents a new era for marketing strategy.
The influencer was created at the end of last year out of a practical need by the CEO of Tyyliluuri, Jouni Turpeinen, and has since garnered global media attention from the likes of The Independent in the UK, New York Post and Fox News in the US, and IB Times in Singapore.
According to the CEO of Tyyliluuri, Milla Sofia is an example of how AI can create new opportunities for communications and marketing.Tyyliluuri
“We’re a relatively small company. Previously we haven’t been able to really use models in our product images and marketing campaigns because of the high costs,” Turpeinen commented to YLE in early September.
“Today, however, AI and virtual influencers have revolutionised the situation and made this cost-effective. We believe that this partnership will help us reach new target groups and further grow our customer base," he added.