News Release

The Face Game: A citizen science project to learn how Artificial Intelligence will choose to appear to humans

New project by the creators of the Moral Machine experiment

Business Announcement

Max Planck Institute for Human Development

Online, profile pictures of human faces are everywhere, and they play a crucial role in shaping the first impression we make on others. Right now, AI gives people the digital tools to transform their online appearance in any way they desire, often making themselves look younger or more attractive. But this is just the beginning: AI is not only helping us play this face game amongst ourselves, but it is also learning the game from us and quietly deciding which face it will showcase as itself when interacting with us.

To better understand these mechanisms, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, the Toulouse School of Economics, the University of Exeter, and the University of British Columbia, together with the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid and Université Paris Cité, have created and launched The Face Game. In this online experiment, humans mix up with neural networks, and everyone (including the machines), posts their own profile pictures and reacts to the profile pictures of others. The game aims at understanding how AI will learn to choose different types of faces for itself, depending on the impression it wants to make and the human it interacts with.

“As we increasingly come across AI replicants with self-generated faces, we need to understand what they learn from observing us play the face game and ensure that we retain control over how we interact with these digital entities,” says Iyad Rahwan, Director at the Center for Humans and Machines at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. His research center explores ethical questions concerning AI and the concept of Machine Behavior.

This project comes from the research team that developed the Moral Machine, a massive online experiment that went viral in 2016. It explored the ethical dilemmas faced by autonomous vehicles, highlighting universal principles as well as cross-cultural differences in how people want AI to behave. The results were published in leading journals, including Science and Nature.

Developed by Universidad Autonoma de Madrid researchers, The Face Game operates on multimodal AI methods, including human behavior analysis with discrimination-aware machine learning and realistic synthetic face images.

Further reading:
„Machines are becoming ever more sophisticated in how they interact with us“.
An interview with Iyad Rahwan, Jean-Francois Bonnefon, and Aythami Morales Moreno:

The Face Game – How it works

Once participants have logged in, they can begin playing rounds of the game, wherein they must mark the profile pictures of other players as “team”-looking or “solo”-looking. They get immediate feedback about the accuracy of their predictions.

Moreover, once they upload their profile pictures, participants get regularly updated statistics about how other players have reacted to them. They can experiment with different profile pictures to see which are rated more “team”- or more “solo”- looking. Finally, participants will encounter “replicants,” nonhuman players whose faces have been generated by state-of-the-art AI models continuously monitoring how human participants play the game. Everyone can take part as long as they are able to give consent.    

Involved institutions: 
Max Planck Institute for Human Development

The Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin was founded in 1963. It is an interdisciplinary research institution dedicated to studying human development and education. The Institute belongs to the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, one of the leading organizations for basic research in Europe.
Researchers involved in The Face Game: Prof. Iyad Rahwan, Dr. Nils Köbis, Amee Assad

Toulouse School of Economics (TSE)
The Toulouse School of Economics is a world-renowned center for research and education, hosting more than 150 international faculty, including a 2014 Nobel laureate. It is one of the top 10 economics departments worldwide, and its mission is to leverage “Economics for the Common Good”.  
Researcher involved in The Face Game: Prof. Jean-Francois Bonnefon

University of Exeter 
The University of Exeter is a Russell Group university that combines world-class research with high levels of student satisfaction. Exeter has over 30,000 students and sits within the Top 15 universities in The Guardian University Guide 2023 and in the top 150 globally in both the QS World Rankings 2022 and THE World University Rankings 2023. 
Researcher involved in The Face Game: Dr. Edmond Awad

University of British Columbia 
The University of British Columbia is a global centre for teaching, learning and research, consistently ranked in the top three universities in Canada, and among the top 20 public universities in the world. Researcher involved in The Face Game: Prof. Azim Shariff

Universidad Autonoma de Madrid 
The Universidad Autonoma de Madrid is a leading research and education institution in Spain well connected to the main AI research networks and initiatives in Europe like ELLIS (through the ELLIS Unit Madrid). For a long time, UAM has been distinguished for its contributions to biometrics research and applied AI.
Researchers involved in The Face Game: MSc. Ignacio Serna, Prof. Julian Fierrez, Assoc. Prof. Aythami Morales.

Université Paris Cité
The LaPsyDE lab at the Université Paris Cité and The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) is a leading center for the study of human thinking and its development. 
Researcher involved in The Face Game: Prof. Wim De Neys

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