What if computers could tell the difference between a smile and a smirk? Computer scientist and facial expression recognition researcher Rana el Kaliouby hoped to answer this question at the eighth annual Technology Fair at California State University, Northridge on May 1. CSUN hosts the technology fair to help familiarize faculty and staff with new technology trends in higher education. "These devices have very high IQs, but technology is still missing the emotional component," el Kaliouby said. "Getting devices to have emotional intelligence could be particularly useful in education." Using artificial intelligence (AI) in education could benefit students because the software could be adapted to each student's needs, el Kaliouby said.
Artificial intelligence requires us to draft a social contract with our technology, said Rana El Kaliouby, co-founder and CEO of emotion AI company Affectiva, who presented on emotion and AI at Fortune's Brainstorm Reinvent conference in Chicago on Monday. We've got to trust it, she explained. To build that trust between humans and technology, El Kaliouby said that empathy is key. In other words, machines have to understand the humans using them. When an Amazon Alexa doesn't understand its owner's request, it becomes quite frustrating to the user.
Growing up in Egypt in the 1980s, Rana el Kaliouby was fascinated by hidden languages--the rapid-fire blinks of 1s and 0s computers use to transform electricity into commands and the infinitely more complicated nonverbal cues that teenagers use to transmit volumes of hormone-laden information to each other. Culture and social stigma discouraged girls like el Kaliouby in the Middle East from hacking either code, but she wasn't deterred. When her father brought home an Atari video game console and challenged the three el Kaliouby sisters to figure out how it worked, Rana gleefully did. When she wasn't allowed to date, el Kaliouby studied her peers the same way that she did the Atari. "I was always the first one to say'Oh, he has a crush on her' because of all of the gestures and the eye contact," she says.
What could your computer, phone, or other gadget do differently if it knew how you were feeling? Rana el Kaliouby, founder and CEO of Affectiva, is considering the possibilities of such a world. Speaking at the Computer History Museum last week, el Kaliouby said that she has been working to teach computers to read human faces since 2000 as a PhD student at Cambridge University. "I remember being stressed," she says. "I had a paper deadline, and "Clippy" [that's Microsoft's ill-fated computer assistant] would pop up and do a little twirl and say'It looks like you are writing a letter.'
Despite the promise of artificial intelligence, algorithmic bias plagues the technology and continues to challenge those looking to scale it to effectively solve business problems. To move forward, the industry will need to solve issues of discrimination that pop up in technologies that rely on AI, such as facial recognition. Thus far, however, this has been a sticking point for companies everywhere. JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Follow @BizTechMagazine on Twitter to keep up with the latest from Dell Technologies World 2019. "Every day, we hear reports of facial recognition technology discriminating against people, especially people of color, and that's a problem," said Rana el Kaliouby, co-founder and CEO of Affectiva, speaking Monday at a session on emerging technologies at Dell Technologies World 2019.