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Image above from case study. Click here to view the video case study. Duration: 4.21. (link opens in new tab)

In this short video Learning Technologist Belinda Green speaks to Mark Thursby, a Senior Lecturer in Music, and two of his music students about their experimental sound installation “Of Sound Mind” presented at the University of Northampton on May 16th and 17th, 2023.

Mark explains how anything conductive can be converted into MIDI notes and music, allowing humans to interact with the installations by touching conductive elements such as leaves. The result was an AI insect hybrid garden that generated unique sounds and created an immersive experience. The installations also had the ability to daisy chain people, where participants could hold hands and the last person could touch a leaf to activate the system.

Belinda speaks to music students Ben Wyatt and Kai Downer who discuss the effectiveness of background sounds, such as a café or a public space to create an immersive surround sound atmosphere and how conductivity and human interaction can be used to create immersive sounds that are ‘in key’ using new technologies.

The interview highlights the captivating and interactive nature of the “Of Sound Mind” installations. The fusion of music, AI technology, and interaction created an immersive experience for participants. The enthusiasm expressed by the interviewees showcased the exciting possibilities that lie ahead, particularly for students and the advancement of music technology.

Case study produced by Richard Byles and Belinda Green.

The year 2023 is proving to be a fascinating one for generative AI tools, with ChatGPT, the latest chatbot from OpenAI, crossing the 100 million user line in January 2023, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in a short period of time (source: DemandSage). ChatGPT is a large language model that provides detailed answers to a wide range of questions. Ask it to generate several learning outcomes for your module or summarise text that you have pasted into the chat box, and you may well be pleased with the results. ChatGPT’s ease of use, speed of response, and detailed answers have seen it quickly dominate the AI generator market and gain both widespread acclaim and criticism.

While early media attention focused on the negative, playing on sci-fi tropes and the out-of-control desires of AI tools, scientists such as Stephen Wolfram have been exploring and explaining the capabilities and intricacies of ChatGPT, expertly raising awareness of its underlying Large Language Model architecture and its limitations as a tool.

In his recent talk on the Turnitin Webinar ‘AI: friend or foe?’, Robin Crockett – Academic Integrity Lead here at UON, discussed how a better understanding of the ability of ChatGPT to create content can be used to deter cheating with AI tools. However, concerns have also been raised about students using the tool to cheat, claiming that minimal effort required to enter an essay question in ChatGPT may produce an essay that may be of an adequate standard to, at least, pass an assessment (source: The Guardian). Fortunately, concerns with AI content being undetectable by similarity checkers will hopefully be addressed by a forthcoming Turnitin update in April, allowing the identification of AI-generated content.

AI: friend or foe? (session)

Link to YouTube, Turnitin Session: AI friend or foe? 28/02/23 (CC Turnitin)

The next webinar in the Turnitin series entitled ‘Combating Contract Cheating on Campus’ with expert speakers Robin Crockett, Irene Glendinning and Sandie Dann, can be found here.  

One thing the media stories seem to agree upon is that generative AI tools have the potential to change the way we do things and challenge the status quo, with some traditional skill sets at risk of becoming replaced by AI, and new opportunities for those who embrace these technologies.

In terms of how AI might be utilised by academic staff, Lee Machado, Professor of Molecular Medicine, describes his use of AI tools in cancer classification and how AI tools might be used to help answer questions in his field. Lee also discusses how he feels AI tools such as ChatGPT could improve student experiences by providing personalised feedback on essays and by simplifying complex information.

Interview with Lee Machado
Click to view video: Interview with Lee Machado – Experiences of Generative AI (link opens in new tab)

In the following interview, Jane Mills, Senior Lecturer in Fashion and Textiles, discusses how the fashion industry is embracing AI, emphasising that rather than AI replacing creativity, it can be used to enhance creative work. Students Amalia Samoila and Donald Mubangizi reflect on the collaborative nature of working with AI, using examples of their current work.

Interview with Jane Mills
Click to view video: Creative use of AI in BA Fashion (link opens in new tab)

In his interview, Rob Howe, Head of Learning Technology, discusses the evolution of AI technology and its impact on the academic world. He explains that AI has come a long way since the original definitions by Minsky and Turing in the 1950s and that improvements in processing speed and access to data have made it a revolution in technology. Rob describes how AI technology has already been integrated into tools and academic systems universities and how the rise of AI technology has led to a change in the way assignments are being considered, as students may now be using AI systems to assist in their studies. Although there is discussion around institutions wishing to ban the use of AI in academic work, Rob emphasizes the importance of learning to live with such tools and using them in a way that supports educators and students. AI systems have the potential to be a valuable resource for tutors to generate learning outcomes and offer new ideas which can then be critically evaluated and modified. 

Interview with Rob Howe
Click to view video: Interview with Rob Howe – Artificial Intelligence (link opens in new tab)

Exploring AI through multiple platforms and apps is a great way for users to get started. However, it’s important to note that not all AI tools are free. While many offer free tokens or limited availability for new users, some require payment. Our team member, inspired by the use of AI-generated images by an art student at UON, tried the IOS app, Dawn AI, which offered a 3-day trial. They enjoyed generating 48 new versions of themselves and even created versions of themselves as a warrior and video game character. 

However, it’s important to consider whether using AI in this way is simply a gimmick or if it has a more purposeful use. It’s easy to dismiss AI-generated images as mere novelties, but the potential applications of this technology are vast and varied. AI-generated images can be used in advertising, social media marketing, and even in the film industry. As AI continues to develop and evolve, we’re likely to see even more innovative and exciting uses for this technology. The possibilities are endless. 

The full extent of how AI tools will fit into daily academic life is yet to be determined. While some believe that AI has the potential to revolutionize the way in which we teach and learn, others remain skeptical about its ethical implications and its potential to negatively impact student engagement.

One of the main concerns is whether AI tools will prove to be a positive tool to enhance creativity and support students or whether they will provide a shortcut to assessments that undermine the learning process. It is clear that there are significant implications for how educators use AI tools in the classroom.

To explore these issues and more, Rob Howe, Head of Learning Technology at the University of Northampton (supported by University staff, external colleagues and the National Centre for A.I.), will be running a series of debates and talks on campus and online. These discussions will aim to assess the potential of AI tools and examine their ethical implications. Participants will discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by AI, and debate the best ways to incorporate these tools into the classroom.

The first of these debates, titled, ‘The computers are taking over…?’, is on March 15th. The full details can be found here;

Link to future Webinar from the series: 

Authors: Richard Byles and Kelly Lea.

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In celebration of International Women’s Day, I decided to use AI image generation to create some beautiful, photo-realistic portraits of women from around the world, in traditional dress.

Those of you who know me personally will know that I worked as a Freelance Graphic Designer for many years before becoming a Learning Technologist. Whilst I no longer work as a Graphic Designer, I do still keep my ear to the ground in the Graphic Design communities where there has been such a mixed reaction to AI image generation. It has been really interesting to watch the reactions over the last six months, as AI image generation has improved so much in such a short time. I, like many others, see it as an amazing and powerful tool that can work with a digital artist to produce pieces of work in a fraction of the time.

Limitations at the beginning

I used, a free online text-to-image website that doesn’t require any login or registration, to play around and explore this new medium. For those simply wanting to type a keyword or two and see the result, it is really good fun. You could waste hours of your life just typing in different keywords and seeing what you get. It’s just so much fun creating weird and wonderful images! Here was one of my first attempts. I’d just asked for a sunflower, I wasn’t expecting a little Panda face peering out from the middle. I quickly learned what I’d done wrong and was determined to get better control over the results.

Sunflower illustration with panda eyes in the middle. AI Image Generation

Writing Prompts: There is a skill to it!

I went back to the Graphic Design community blogs and YouTube videos where I’d seen absolutely stunning results, with futuristic and surreal city-scapes and weird fantastical creatures. Most of the designers I saw are using a platform called Midjourney. Midjourney offers a free trial and then a monthly subscription of just $10 a month for their cheapest plan. These AI artists, and yes I will call them artists despite how controversial that is, are using and sharing specific prompts that, through trial and error, they have found work really effectively to achieve certain visual effects.

It is quite well accepted that AI can’t do hands and often can’t do faces particularly well. I often see lions with 6 legs. You end up with some fairly disturbing images sometimes. The image below was created when I asked for a scene with The Queen of England. You’ll see in this example what I mean when I say it can’t do faces. (The little furry, three-eared creature, with no eyes, was supposed to be Paddington 😞).

AI image generation. Image of the Queen with a blur where her face should be.

Harnessing the power of AI

Despite using a free AI image generator, which states very clearly on its homepage NOT to expect photo realism, I was amazed by these results. I was blown away by the quality of all the images that came out, and the ones I’ve omitted from my gallery below, I’ve only done so because they looked a bit too airbrushed.

The prompt I generally used went as follows; (X is the nationality)
Create a portrait of a traditional X woman, clear facial features, cinematic, 35mm lens, f/1.8, accent lighting, global illumination"

Why don’t you give it a go and try a different nationality? I’d love to hear how you got on.

A much longer version of this prompt was originally shared on Reddit and I took it from a YouTube video. You can watch if you want to understand more about what some of those elements are in the prompt — (Photographers reading this will already have recognised some of those terms).

How AI image generation works

You may be looking at the images, wondering who these people are and whether they want AI using their faces. Well, you may be surprised to find out that none of these women are real people. They do not exist. You will not find these faces anywhere on the internet. Of course, coincidently, they might happen to look like someone in the world, but the faces, along with the rest of the image, are created by AI.

For example, if I want to paint a picture of a horse, I don’t have a horse to look at, so I’ll find a number of images on the internet to observe the proportions, the face shape, the mane, etc. I look at lots of different images from different angles to get a good idea of what it looks like. Then I’ll do my painting based on what I’ve observed. Similarly, AI will look at thousands of images on the Internet based on the specifics you’d put in your prompt. It then uses that information to create a brand new, original (Royalty Free*) image just for you. If you don’t like it, you can just tweak your prompt and it’ll make you a brand new, original image.

*Check the T&Cs of the platform you are using

Moving forward with AI

AI is here to stay whether we like it or not. I hope that we can appreciate it for what it can do for us, and embrace the technology. I am all for technology that can save us time and AI image generation certainly does that. Does it replace the artist? No, not necessarily. As you have seen in the examples, there is a skill, and you do have to learn how to get the best results. I look forward to seeing the images get better and better.

Image showing the main title - So, here's the thing

You may have seen films where artificially intelligent devices either help or hinder humans – but where is it all going?

Artificial Intelligence will increasingly form part of our daily lives but what actually is it and what might be the benefits and challenges for us in our future home, study and work environments?

The debate, moderated by the UK’s National Centre for Artificial Intelligence, will raise questions for all of us about the way in which this technology will impact our lives.

This session is aimed at everyone, regardless of their background and level of expertise.

Hear both sides of the argument and vote at the end!

This event is taking place in person and online.

In person details and registration:

Online details and registration:

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