systems? And how do you collect data
for less frequent emotions, like pride or
Nonetheless, the field is progressing
so fast that I expect the technologies that
surround us to become emotion-aware
in the next five years. They will read and
respond to human cognitive and emotional states, just the way humans do.
Emotion AI will be ingrained in the technologies we use every day, running in
the background, making our tech interactions more personalized, relevant,
authentic, and interactive. It’s hard to
remember now what it was like before
we had touch interfaces and speech recognition. Eventually we’ll feel the same
way about our emotion-aware devices.
Here are a few of the applications I’m
most excited about.
Automotive: An occupant-aware vehicle
could monitor the driver for fatigue, distraction, and frustration. Beyond safety,
your car might personalize the in-cab experience, changing the music or ergonomic
settings according to who’s in the car.
Education: In online learning environments, it is often hard to tell whether
a student is struggling. By the time test
scores are lagging, it’s often too late—
the student has already quit. But what if
intelligent learning systems could provide a personalized learning experience?
These systems would offer a different
explanation when the student is frustrated, slow down in times of confusion,
or just tell a joke when it’s time to have
Health care: Just as we can track our
fitness and physical health, we could
track our mental state, sending alerts to
a doctor if we chose to share this data.
Researchers are looking into emotion AI
for the early diagnosis of disorders such
as Parkinson’s and coronary artery dis-
ease, as well as suicide prevention and
Communication: There’s a lot of evidence
that we already treat our devices, especially conversational interfaces, the way
we treat each other. People name their
social robots, they confide in Siri that
they were physically abused, and they
ask a chatbot for moral support as they
head out for chemotherapy. And that’s
before we’ve even added empathy. On the
other hand, we know that younger generations are losing some ability to empathize because they grow up with digital
interfaces in which emotion, the main
dimension of what makes us human, is
missing. So emotion AI just might bring
us closer together.
As with any novel technology, there is
potential for both good and abuse. It’s
hard to get more personal than data about
your emotions. People should have to opt
in for any kind of data sharing, and they
should know what the data is being used
for. We’ll also need to figure out if certain
applications cross moral lines. We’ll have
to figure out the rules around privacy and
ethics. We’ll have to work to avoid building bias into these applications. But I’m a
strong believer that the potential for good
far outweighs the bad.
Rana el Kaliouby is the CEO and
cofounder of Affectiva. In 2012 she was
named one of MIT Technology Review’s
35 Innovators Under 35.
I expect the technologies that surround us to become
emotion-aware in the next five years.
Holiday Gift Guide
From the high-tech foodie
to the gadget enthusiast
to the robot-obsessed
child—every techie’s heart
will skip a beat at our
holiday gift guide, and it
just might make you the
most thoughtful gift-giver
of the season.
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