Anthropologists have long known that understanding human culture is a complex task that requires multiple perspectives. Imagine a world where the perspectives are not limited to just human-made observations but also include the perspective of machines, where the machine can understand the tone of voice, the facial expression, and the context of a conversation.

Multimodal AI has the potential to revolutionize how anthropologists collect, analyze and interpret data, providing a more holistic view of human culture. It can uncover patterns and connections that the human eye may miss, leading to new insights and discoveries. With the ability to process and organize vast amounts of data, multimodal AI can unlock a whole new realm of understanding for anthropologists and, in turn, bring a deeper understanding of humanity to the world.

In the following piece, I will discuss why I think multimodal AI is one of the next great leaps for us and how I see that fitting into our anthropological practice at Azimuth Labs.

What is Multimodal Data?

Multimodal data refers to information presented in multiple forms, such as text, images, audio, and video. It captures and represents human behavior and communication that goes beyond just language by including different modalities like facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, and other nonverbal cues. The different modalities can provide a more complete and nuanced understanding of human behavior. They can provide a more accurate picture of social dynamics and cultural patterns when analyzed together. Multimodal data can be collected through various means, such as audio and video recordings, photographs, and other forms of digital media.

What is Multimodal Anthropology?

Multimodal anthropology is an approach to studying human culture and behavior that uses multiple forms of data, including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (or movement-based) data and traditional textual and linguistic data. This approach aims to capture the complexity of human behavior and communication by incorporating different forms of expression and understanding how they interact. This can include analyzing body language, facial expressions, vocal intonations, and other nonverbal cues alongside linguistic data. By using a multimodal approach, anthropologists can understand how people interact with and within their environments, cultures, and societies.

What is a Multimodal AI?

A multimodal AI, also known as a multimodal AI model, is a type of artificial intelligence system that is able to process and analyze multiple forms of data, such as text, images, audio, and video. These models are designed to understand and interpret human behavior and communication by using multiple data modalities, such as speech, facial expressions, gestures, and other nonverbal cues. The multimodal AI can be used in various applications, such as natural language processing, computer vision, speech recognition, and sentiment analysis. The goal of multimodal AI is to improve the ability of machines to understand human behavior and communication in a more accurate and nuanced way, by combining the information from different modalities. This approach can provide a more holistic understanding of the data and can help to identify patterns and relationships that would be missed by analyzing one modality alone.

Why Use a Multimodal AI

The benefits of a multimodal AI include:

  1. Improved accuracy: By using multiple forms of data, a multimodal AI can make more accurate predictions and understandings of the information it is analyzing.
  2. Greater context: A multimodal AI can capture a complete understanding of the context in which information is presented, providing more nuanced insights.
  3. Better human-computer interaction: By incorporating nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and body language, a multimodal AI can improve its ability to interact with humans more naturally and intuitively.
  4. Increased flexibility: With the ability to process multiple forms of data, a multimodal AI can adapt to different situations and environments more easily.
  5. Enhance understanding of the complexity of human behavior: A multimodal AI could enable researchers and analysts to gain a more comprehensive understanding of human behavior, cultural dynamics, and cultural-specific nuances by incorporating nonverbal cues, and visual and auditory modalities.
  6. Better natural language understanding: A multimodal AI can improve its ability to understand the meaning and intent behind words by using other modalities like facial expressions and intonation.

How Multimodal AI Benefits Anthropology

A multimodal AI model could benefit anthropology research in several ways:

  1. Improved data analysis: By analyzing multiple forms of data, such as text, images, audio, and video, a multimodal AI model can help anthropologists identify patterns and connections that would be difficult or impossible to detect using traditional methods.
  2. Greater efficiency: The ability of a multimodal AI model to process and analyze large amounts of data quickly and accurately can greatly improve the efficiency of anthropological research, allowing researchers to focus on more in-depth analysis and interpretation.
  3. A better understanding of human behavior and culture: By analyzing data from multiple sources and modalities, a multimodal AI model can help anthropologists gain a more comprehensive understanding of human behavior and culture, leading to more accurate and nuanced insights.
  4. Assistive tools for fieldwork: Multimodal AI models can also be used as assistive tools for fieldwork, allowing anthropologists to capture, analyze, and interpret data in real time, providing them with more accurate and detailed information about the people and cultures they are studying.
  5. Enhancing visualization: Multimodal AI models can also enhance the visualization of ethnographic data, making it more accessible and shareable to broader audiences.


Overall, a multimodal AI model can be a valuable tool for anthropologists, helping them to gain a deeper understanding of human behavior and culture and making their research more efficient and impactful. While we are still in the early days, reach out to Azimuth Labs if you are interested in learning more about multimodal AI and how it will transform anthropology.