What is: UNLV’s Digital President Whitfield

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In an effort to connect more students to resources on UNLV’s campus and increase connectivity, UNLV has launched an Artificial Intelligence (AI) President Whitfield to virtually serve students. 

An AI avatar was made to reflect Whitfield’s physical features, tone, and was developed over the course of approximately 5 months. In helping develop the AI, Whitfield spent several hours in a recording studio taping about 1,000 different phrases related to campus resources and opportunities. Inspired by real interviews with UNLV President, Keith Whitfield, the digital avatar was constructed to be informational, conversational, and empathetic to students. 

Digital Whitfield was formally launched on Feb. 1 during UNLV’s State of the University. During the unveiling of the digital avatar, Whitfield shared what inspired him to embark on creating a digital AI of himself to serve students. 

“One of the things I learned during my listening tour last fall was that we needed to find more unique ways to connect to students,” Whitfield said. “While we knew that talking to 30,000 students at once would be nearly impossible, we have embarked on this one-of-a-kind opportunity to create a digital President Whitfield. It allows students to ask me questions 24/7 and as far as we know is the first digital president in the nation.”

The digital Whitfield was developed by AI Media Lab, a company based in Nevada that specializes in developing applications for interactive AI digital human technology. Russ Logan, a UNLV graduate and managing partner of AI Media Lab created the program. Logan works alongside business alumnus Monty Coon who is vice president of AI dialogue and computer science grad Andrew Torres. 

In addition to being comprised almost entirely by UNLV alumni, the company is also composed of a production team that works on Netflix movies alongside high-level engineers and Ph.D. graduates. 

In addition to creating a “digital twin” for Whitfield, a popular project from the AI Media Lab is the JoJoBiden46 Project. The initiative seeks to inspire more civic participation on TikTok by creating a hyperreal version of President Joe Biden. 

Outside of being the world’s first-ever AI-powered creative studio, the lab reports having enjoyed the opportunity to work with the UNLV team. 

“The biggest thing I’ve taken from all of this is how much I really like President Whitfield and working with the UNLV team,” Coon said. “I went to UNLV and haven’t missed a basketball game in 12 years, so having the opportunity to work on this for UNLV has been so rewarding.”

Currently, AI Media Lab is looking for ways to improve the wealth of knowledge the digital president already has.

“The more the avatar interacts with students, the better the technology will become,” Coon said. “The digital president’s knowledge base will grow and its synthesized vocal rhythms and facial/bodily movements will become more refined over time.”

While the digital president’s knowledge base will grow over time, Logan says that none of the data will be sold as privacy is a huge issue for them. Those wanting to chat with digital president Whitfield can visit the Office of the President’s page on UNLV’s website to interact with the AI.

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