Part one: What is emotional AI and how is it embracing computing?

How affective computing emotional AI are changing society

SRI International
Feb 21 · 4 min read

“…there are lots of facets to how we signal emotion, body language captures this”… “multi-level signals can be monitored in real-time” — a talk on Emotional AI by Amir Tamrakar, Sr. Technical Manager of SRI International

Our emotions are intrinsically associated with humanity. They inform cognition and are a vital aspect of human communication. So how can a machine possibly recognize human feelings and itself seem ‘emotional’?

Many artistic presentations of the “emotional computer” have had dystopian undertones. The 1973 book, Demon Seed by Dean R Koontz, presents an emotionally controlling and even angry intelligent computer. The 2014 film, Her, is a love story between a man and a digital assistant. However, Emotional AI (Artificial Intelligence) has a more utopian back story influenced by biology.

The next step on the evolutionary roadmap of the computer is emotion recognition. Artificial Intelligence provides the digital equivalent of a computer dipping a toe into an ocean; add in emotion, and computers can jump on a boat and swim away from shore.

AI is driving the new discipline of ‘Affective Computing’ where machines take on human-like feelings to bring a new era in technology to life. Affective Computing is a truly multi-disciplinary approach to computing, combining the skills and knowledge from areas as diverse as engineering, neuroscience, and behavioral psychology.

What is affective computing?

Affective Computing takes smart to new levels. It is all about emotions. “Affect” is another word for emotion. The discipline, as already mentioned, takes its steer from many areas that deal with computing and human behavior, pulling these together to create highly innovative and game-changing tools.

The concept was first proposed in a beautifully composed seminal paper by Rosalind Picard, published in 1995, entitled “Affective Computing”. The paper is written with an emphasis on the (then early) development of ‘wearables’. One of the conclusions of the paper is:

“emotions play a necessary role not only in human creativity and intelligence, but also in rational human thinking and decision-making. Computers that will interact naturally and intelligently with humans need the ability to at least recognize and express affect.”

The building blocks of Emotional AI

In 2018, IEEE published an article that outlines the three building blocks of emotional AI:

Emotion recognition

Emotion generation

Emotion augmentation

Emotional AI and affected computing, where next?

In Part Two, we will explore further the areas Emotional AI is pushing into; whilst keeping a watchful eye on the privacy aspects of the technology.

The Dish

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For people who want to make the world a safer, healthier and more productive place through innovation.

The Dish

The Dish

For people who want to make the world a safer, healthier and more productive place through innovation. Created and curated by the team at SRI International.

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