The Cognitive Computing Era: Affective Computing
- Published: August 17, 2015
- Written by Peter Fingar
Based on excerpts from the new book Cognitive Computing: A Brief Guide for Game Changers
Turning to M.I.T.’s Affective Computing group to open our discussion, “Affective Computing is computing that relates to, arises from, or deliberately influences emotion or other affective phenomena. Emotion is fundamental to human experience, influencing cognition, perception, and everyday tasks such as learning, communication, and even rational decision-making. However, technologists have largely ignored emotion and created an often frustrating experience for people, in part because affect has been misunderstood and hard to measure. Our research develops new technologies and theories that advance basic understanding of affect and its role in human experience. We aim to restore a proper balance between emotion and cognition in the design of technologies for addressing human needs.
“Affective Computing research combines engineering and computer science with psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, sociology, education, psychophysiology, value-centered design, ethics, and more. We bring together individuals with a diversity of technical, artistic, and human abilities in a collaborative spirit to push the boundaries of what can be achieved to improve human affective experience with technology.”
The Tel Aviv based, Beyond Verbal Communication, Ltd. commercializes technology that extracts a person’s full set of emotions and character traits, using their raw voice in real-time, as they speak. This ability to extract, decode and measure human moods, attitudes and decision-making profiles introduces a whole new dimension of emotional understanding which the firm calls Emotions Analytics,™ transforming the way we interact with machines and with each other.
The firm developed software that can detect 400 different variations of human “moods.” The company is now integrating this software into call centers that can help a sales assistant understand and react to customer’s emotions in real time. The software itself can also pinpoint and influence how consumers make decisions. For example, if this person is an innovator, you want to offer the latest and greatest product. On the other hand, if the customer is conservative, you offer him something tried and true. Talk about targeted advertising! Think this is for tomorrow? It’s embedded in Will.i.am's PULS smartband, and being sold to large call centers to assist in customer service.
Meet Pepper. In June 2014, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son announced an amazing new robot called Pepper. The most amazing feature isn’t that it will only cost $1,900, it’s that Pepper is designed to understand and respond to human emotion. Update: IBM has joined forces with Softbank to have Watson cover Pepper’s back!
Pepper is designed with single goal in mind: become a household companion for owners. The robot is capable of judging situations and adapting rationally, as well as recognize human tones and expressions to see how someone feels. Pepper’s software was developed with the purpose of making it “able to recognize people’s emotions by analyzing their speech, facial expressions, and body language, and then deliver appropriate responses.” Pepper is the robot with “a heart.” Pepper still has some kinks and it does not “behave perfectly in all situations” but it will be able to “learn on its own.” Observation of human responses, such as laughing at a joke, is central to Pepper’s ability to learn on its own.
As reported in the Washington Post, “Cognitive psychologist Mary Czerwinski and her boyfriend were having a vigorous argument as they drove to Vancouver, B.C., from Seattle, where she works at Microsoft Research. She can’t remember the subject, but she does recall that suddenly, his phone went off, and he read out the text message: ‘Your friend Mary isn’t feeling well. You might want to give her a call.’
“At the time, Czerwinski was wearing on her wrist a wireless device intended to monitor her emotional ups and downs. Similar to the technology used in lie detector tests, it interprets signals such as heart rate and electrical changes in the skin. The argument may have been trivial, but Czerwinski’s internal response was not. That prompted the device to send a distress message to her cellphone, which broadcast it to a network of her friends. Including the one with whom she was arguing, right beside her. Ain’t technology grand?”