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.
A DEVICE that can pick up on people's emotions is being developed to help people with autism relate to those around them. It will alert its autistic user if the person they are talking to starts showing signs of getting bored or annoyed. One of the problems facing people with autism is an inability to pick up on social cues. Failure to notice that they are boring or confusing their listeners can be particularly damaging, says Rana El Kaliouby of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "It's sad because people then avoid having conversations with them."
For all their brilliance, our phones still have as much emotional intelligence as glue. Yet, as electronics become ever more important in our lives, it may make sense to start teaching them to be more aware of our feelings. Early glimpses of such efforts were afoot at a gathering of over 700 artificial-intelligence software developers, academics and researchers this week in Manhattan, where several talks focused on finding ways to make our robots, voice assistants and chatbots more, well, emotional. "People are building these very intimate relationships with these companions, but right now these companions have no empathy," Rana el Kaliouby, CEO of emotional-recognition tech firm Affectiva, said onstage Tuesday at the inaugural O'Reilly Artificial Intelligence Conference. Teaching robots about emotion illustrates the promise and the huge challenges in developing AI tools.
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.