What did you think of the last commercial you watched? Would you buy the product? You might not remember or know for certain how you felt, but increasingly, machines do. New artificial intelligence technologies are learning and recognizing human emotions, and using that knowledge to improve everything from marketing campaigns to health care. These technologies are referred to as "emotion AI." Emotion AI is a subset of artificial intelligence (the broad term for machines replicating the way humans think) that measures, understands, simulates, and reacts to human emotions.
In 1998, while looking for topics for her Master's thesis at the American University in Cairo, [Rana] el Kaliouby stumbled upon a book by MIT researcher Rosalind Picard. It argued that, since emotions play a large role in human decision-making, machines will require emotional intelligence if they are to truly understand human needs. El Kaliouby was captivated by the idea that feelings could be measured, analyzed, and used to design systems that can genuinely connect with people. Today, el Kaliouby is the CEO of Affectiva, a company that's building the type of emotionally intelligent AI systems Picard envisioned two decades ago. Affectiva's software measures a user's emotional response through algorithms that identify key facial landmarks and analyze pixels in those regions to classify facial expressions.
"Without our emotions, we can't make smart decisions," says Rana el Kaliouby. In the field of artificial intelligence, this is sheer heresy. Isn't the goal of AI to create a machine with human-level intelligence but without the human "baggage" of emotions, biases, and intuitions that only get in the way of smart decisions? As the co-founder and CEO of Affectiva, el Kaliouby is on a mission to expand what we mean by "artificial intelligence" and create intelligent machines that understand our emotions. Surveying the evolution of how we have interacted with computers, she asks "what's the next more natural interface?"
In June 2015, Ned Sahin paid a visit to a 23-year-old man named Danny who is on the autism spectrum. Danny can't speak, can't care for himself, and can't recognize or respond to human emotions. For most of his life, he's lived in a residential care facility in upstate New York. Sahin is a neuroscientist and the founder of Brain Power, a tech company dedicated to creating wearable AI systems to help people with brain-related challenges like autism. That morning, Sahin brought Danny a pair of Google Glasses equipped with a program designed to help children with autism.