Unique design perspective in Halmstad’s AI education
Stefan Byttner got his first computer already before he started school. It had a tiny light that flashed red when the computer processed something, and he heard the adults saying “look, the computer is thinking”.
“That fascinated me. Can a machine think? What does that really mean?” says Stefan Byttner, Senior Lecturer at Halmstad University.
“If you want to provide a good, holistic perspective on AI, you need three things: the technology, the service design and the business perspective. Many offer the first and third, but we are the only university in Sweden with a broad and deep offering of courses in service design based on AI.”
Stefan Byttner, Senior Lecturer at Halmstad University
The young Stefan Byttner did not get an answer to his question at the time, but the curiosity remained. When as a master’s student he began to understand some of the mathematics behind AI, he felt that this was a field he really wanted to explore.
Stefan Byttner has been instrumental in starting the research area related to machine learning for remote diagnostics in vehicles at Halmstad University and has worked with applying such concepts to heat pumps and district heating substations. More recently he has been part of a project developing algorithms to analyse PET scans, as a decision support for doctors diagnosing dementia.
Stefan Byttner is Acting Dean and also Head of the Department for intelligent systems and digital design at the School of Information technology at Halmstad University, project manager of the MAISTR program, and one of the project leaders in the AI.m project.
“When a job is a little difficult – that’s when I find it fun and rewarding. Whether it’s research or teaching matters less, as long as it feels new, and I believe I can make a positive change”, says Stefan Byttner.
Tech, service and business design perspective
MAISTR is a so-called expert competence program, a concept initiated and financed by the Knowledge Foundation to support academia in developing new methods for lifelong learning.
“Universities are normally good at creating education for young people, who need to be on campus to be sort of fostered into the environment. Active professionals lack that need for physical presence, and instead want a more flexible education format. But so far, universities have not been very good at offering this opportunity”, says Stefan Byttner.
MAISTR – a collaboration with the University of Skövde, RISE and Blekinge Institute of Technology – offers independent courses at advanced level, focusing on AI and service innovation. Right now, a complete program is being developed, after a two-year pilot project which received very positive reviews. Among other things, the industrial partner Volvo view MAISTR as unique in Sweden.
“If you want to provide a good, holistic perspective on AI, you need three things: the technology, the service design and the business perspective. Many offer the first and third, but we are the only university in Sweden with a broad and deep offering of courses in service design based on AI”, Stefan Byttner says.
He is not sure why that is, but assumes that one reason is that technologists often think first of technical solutions, secondly of business – but lack even basic knowledge of design.
“Had I been head of a computer science department at another university, I might very well not have had any designers at all on my staff. Here in Halmstad I am the manager of AI people as well as design people. We have, for example, a professor of design ethnography in my department – very humanistic, indeed”, says Stefan Byttner.
Interdisciplinary thinking permeates the work around Byttner, even more so after the introduction of programs such as MAISTR and AI.m, which have increased collaboration across subject boundaries.
AI.m benefits researchers as well as companies
In AI.m, Stefan Byttner was one of the initiators. He was convinced that Halmstad University ought to collaborate more with the region’s innovation arenas and science parks. While some types of companies found it natural to connect with the University, there were others who did not even know that Halmstad has a strong research environment in AI. Byttner contacted the incubator High Five, and together with them and the colleague Pontus Wärnestål founded AI.m with funding from the European Regional Development Fund. Each semester, the program accepts five companies into the incubator, giving them a chance to work together with researchers as well as business and service developers.
“We start out looking specifically at their business model and their data, to see what new opportunities could be created for them using machine learning”, says Stefan Byttner.
This is followed by a workshop in service design and development of a prototype for the company. AI.m also offers help with competence development, and support if the company wants to apply for public funding to move along with the idea.
“This is a process benefitting both companies and researchers. For our doctoral students, it paves a way into the companies and creates a relationship with them. That has been very valuable, not least for our international staff”, says Stefan Byttner.
Text: Lisa Kirsebom
Photo: Anna-Frida Agardson
Top illustration: iStock
The Center for Applied Intelligent Systems Research (CAISR), is a research and education center for AI at Halmstad University. The center is funded by the University and the Knowledge Foundation with support from Swedish Industry.
The scientific focus for the Center for Applied Intelligent System Research (CAISR) is “aware” intelligent systems – human aware, situation aware and self-aware. Such systems can combine different sources of information to get an overall picture and monitor themselves. The subject expertise in the center is in signal analysis, machine learning and mechatronics. CAISR also has an emphasis on cooperating systems, in line with the research focus at the School of Information Technology (ITE).