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Published: 2021-06-30

New initiative in research in the growing field of Media AI

NEWS A new arena for national research collaboration on Media AI has been started. Partners are several of Sweden's heaviest technical universities and companies such as Spotify, Bonnier News, Schibsted, ABB and Ericsson. The goal is world-leading research and efficient utilization in the rapidly growing field of Media AI.

Text: Natalie Pintar

The Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program (WASP) research programme is a comprehensive national initiative for strategically motivated basic research, education, and academic recruitment. Collaboration with the surrounding society takes place, among other things, through the thematic research arenas WASP Research Arenas (WARA). WARA Media, a new arena for research in Media AI, is now being started.

It is motivated by an ongoing trend where automatic analysis of combined media, such as text, image, and sound, is becoming increasingly important in many industries. The arena is led by Johanna Björklund, associate professor at Umeå University and co-founder of the media companies Codemill AB and Adlede AB. For Björklund, the arena represents a new chapter for Swedish media technology:

“We are entering a time when all companies, in one way or another, must relate to the media, for example in digital meetings, in external communication, in process control, or in the development of future products. Through WARA Media, we can create new relationships at the individual level that transcend existing industries, and establish long-term collaborations between academia and industry” she says.

The purpose of the arena is to promote world-leading research in Media AI, and to increase the utilization rate of scientific discoveries. Key players are Spotify, Schibsted, Bonnier News, Ericsson, ABB and the WASP universities KTH, Lund University, Umeå University, Linköping University, and Chalmers. By participating in the arena, companies can collaborate with top international researchers and new talents from WASP's graduate school. The researchers, in turn, get the opportunity to use unique test environments and data sets, and get in touch with industrial expertise in various application areas.

“New media constitute a new research front with repercussions on both industry and society at large. The questions include analysis of the media's content and form, how the media is used and appreciated by its listeners and readers and what social effects the media has. As one of the largest research organizations in media technology and artificial intelligence, Spotify looks forward to WASP addressing issues such as these” says Jussi Karlgren, researcher in language technology at Spotify and one of the initiators of the arena.

Researchers are also very interested in language. Jens Edlund, senior lecturer at the Department of Intelligent Systems, the division for speech, music and hearing at KTH and director of the national research infrastructure Språkbanken Tal, believes that speaking people almost always play a central role in combined media:

“To create an automatic understanding of combined media, it is not enough to analyze transcripts of what is said. Human behaviors and conversations are difficult to understand without a connection between where, how, when, to whom and by whom. Capturing this is a major challenge that requires a concerted approach” he says.

WARA Media is the fourth research arena within WASP. The arenas Public Safety, Software and Common already exist, the latter being the arena name for Ericsson Research's data center in Lund. Two more research arenas are in the starting blocks. Collaboration between industry and academia gives researchers the opportunity to test and develop their research under real conditions. It strengthens research results and shortens the path to concrete applications.

Read more about WASP research arenas

Read more about WARA Media


The purpose of WARA Media is to promote world-leading research in media AI by building a community of researchers and industry representatives from a variety of industrial segments and scientific fields. Arena members jointly identify important future challenges and work together to find new solutions. To support the work, the arena provides resources in the form of contact mediation, expertise in, for example, intellectual property law and regulatory issues, and infrastructure for collecting and sharing training data for machine learning systems. The founding partners of the arena are the WASP-affiliated universities Umeå University, KTH, Chalmers, Linköping University, and Lund University, as well as the companies Schibsted, Bonnier News, Spotify, Ericsson, and ABB. Arena is led by Johanna Björklund at Umeå University, with the support of Sandor Albrecht from KAW, Jussi Karlgren from Spotify and the arena's steering group.

Steering group members:

Johanna Björklund, Umeå University / Adlede AB / Codemill AB
Agnes Stenbom, Schibsted
Amy Loutifi, Örebro University
Carl Seger, Chalmers
Diana Feldreich, Bonnier News
Gayathri Gopalakrishnan, ABB
Gustav Eje Henter, KTH
Hans Hjelm, Bonnier News 
Harald Pobloth, Ericsson 
Jens Edlund, KTH
Jussi Karlgren, Spotify
Per-Erik Forssén, Linköping University
Sandor Albrecht, WALP
Volker Krueger, Lund University

For more information, please contact

Johanna Björklund
Associate professor