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At Next Generation, the SMaILE project that makes artificial intelligence available to children

Mulassano from the Compagnia di San Paolo Foundation: “Between the lines of the codes lies the potential to improve people’s lives”


An organiser, a researcher, a communicator. A survey to identify one’s own “profile” when it comes to Artificial Intelligence, developed by the Giffoni Innovation Hub together with the Polytechnic University of Torino. The SMaILE project was discussed during Giffoni Impact.
SMaILE is a research project on Artificial Intelligence, involving the Polytechnic of Turin, the University of Turin (Matteo Baldoni and Monica Bucciarelli) and the Royal Holloway of London in collaboration with Giffoni Innovation Hub, which won the competition of the Compagnia di San Paolo Foundation.

The foundation has existed since 1563 – explains Paolo Mulassano, Head of Obiettivo Pianeta at the Compagnia di San Paolo Foundation, and has always focused on people and social growth. During this Recovery period, it is obvious that information and innovation are two areas that have a very important role in the debate, and it is also true that one of the most significant areas that shows up strongly when we talk about artificial intelligence. Between the lines of coding there is a great potential for improving people’s lives. That’ s why the San Paolo Foundation has supported this project, the aim of which is to transfer skills to AI and technology”.

The aim of the project is to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities of Artificial Intelligence. The idea is that digital skills can be a pedagogical tool to improve both distance and face-to-face learning through game theory codes and gamification techniques.
SMaILE starts with a bet – says Giacomo Como, Professor of Mathematics at Politecnico di Torino – to make the principles and methods of Artificial Intelligence understandable to young people. It is a set of pervasive technologies that will become increasingly fundamental in everyday life. However, there is too little information about them. They are not taught in school, so in the educational sphere, we need to take measures to overcome this gap from a very early age. Perhaps by setting up a new programme aimed at reaching the youngest children through gamification, creative learning and experiential learning”.

One of the projects is an app that, through Artificial Intelligence, transforms young innovators into virtual mayors of potentially smart and sustainable cities. The young digital mayor will be able to use AI to design solutions for his city.
Elements that can also be found more and more in the management of real cities. Today, in fact, AI tools have become an integral part of everyday life and are taking up more and more space. Robotic systems, self-driving cars, personalised medicine. However, these limitless possibilities are not always realised. For this reason, the Politecnico di Torino, together with the Giffoni Innovation Hub, conducted a survey aims to determine the level of training on artificial intelligence for an audience of about 9 million young people, mostly Generation Z students, who will undertake the task of promoting changes.

In order to address to these young people – says Monica Bucciarelli, Professor of Psychology at the University of Turin – we decided to use the skills that we have since childhood, providing that technological skills, thanks to SMaILE, are learnt through natural and simple ways, training original talents. For example, Codey Rocky, a smart robot that responds to voice and visual signals and responds in an appropriate way. It is used to teach young children the elements of coding. And all this, when technology has become the basis for the democratisation of knowledge in the digital world. And for sustainability. 

“Artificial Intelligence – says Emanuela Girardi, founder of Pop AI – is fundamental to the development of the society of the future. That’s why 52 countries have already established specific strategies to use this opportunity. In Europe, the decision has been taken to invest in ethical principles. Put it simply, AI should be developed to improve people’s lives respecting laws and fundamental rights. Italy sets out to use this type of technology to achieve the 17 sustainable goals by the 2030. In fact, thanks to AI, models can be created to evaluate impacts, useful for understanding how to reduce waste and emissions. And all this with the understanding that the jobs of the future will require new skills, created in a bilingual school where the second language is the language of computing and artificial intelligence”.

But to do all this, we have to start with knowledge of AI from a very early age. “Nicola Sapio, Senior Content Manager at the Giffoni Innovation Hub, explains: “That’s why we conducted a survey to find out the level of knowledge and how intuitive it is to learn the new technologies that will be the protagonists of tomorrow’s job market, providing endless opportunities for our young people to be ever more competitive in an international context”.

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