Toward Affective Interfaces

Rosalind W. Picard, MIT Media Laboratory,

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University November 6, 1998


Research in "affective computing" aims to give computers the skills of emotional intelligence, such as the ability to recognize, express, and in some cases "have" emotions. In this presentation I will describe our recent efforts to give computers the ability to recognize and respond intelligently to people's emotional expressions. I will show examples of wearable computers with customized pattern recognition software, including eyeglasses that communicate expressions such as confusion or interest, and a wearable "StartleCam," a first step toward a system that reduces information overload by recognizing and responding to the wearer's physiological signals. I will also describe new software that responds to frustrated users with a careful mix of empathy, sympathy, and other skills of emotional intelligence. This "emotionally savvy" software significantly improved users' willingness to interact with the system, as measured in a behavioral study involving 70 subjects, two control conditions, and a frustrating game-playing scenario.

Rosalind W. Picard heads the Affective Computing Research Group at the MIT Media Laboratory, addressing computing that relates to, arises from, or deliberately influences emotions. Picard holds a bachelors in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a masters and doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT. She joined the MIT faculty in 1991, was awarded the NEC Development Professorship of Computers and Communications in 1992, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1995. She has industry experience with companies such as Apple, AT&T, BT, HP, IBM, and Interval. The author of over 60 peer-reviewed scientific publications in pattern recognition, multidimensional signal modeling, and computer vision, Picard is known internationally for pioneering research into digital libraries and content-based video retrieval. She is the author of a new book, Affective Computing, published by MIT Press, and recently received a "best paper" prize from the Pattern Recognition Society for an article published with Tom Minka on interactive computer learning with multiple models.


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