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.
"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?"
GWEN IFILL: Now: developing technology that can better identify your own emotions. At a time when people are concerned about what data can track and how it can be sold, it is an advance that clearly raises concerns. But it may also yield some important benefits. The "NewsHour"'s April Brown takes a look, part of our weekly series on the Leading Edge of science and technology. DAN MCDUFF, Director of Research, Affectiva: You can control the movements of BB-8, the little droid, based on how your facial expressions are changing.
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.
Humans are already forming relationships with their artificial intelligence (AI) assistants, so we should make that technology as emotionally aware as possible by teaching it to respond to our feelings. That is the premise of Rana el Kaliouby, cofounder and CEO of Affectiva, an MIT spinout company that sells emotion recognition technology based on her computer science PhD, which she spent building the first ever computer that can recognise emotions. The machine learning-based software uses a camera or webcam to identify parts of human faces (eyebrows, the corners of eyes, etc), classify expressions and map them onto emotions like joy, disgust, surprise, anger, and so on, in real time. "We are getting lots of interest around chatbots, self-driving cars, anything with a conversational interface. If it's interfacing with a human it needs social and emotional skills.