Friday, September 25, 2015

Computer Captures My Emotions

The anger is Visible, yeah.

"Waltham firm helps computers learn empathy by mapping the human face" by Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe  |  September 21 2015

Long before any human can read a book, he or she can read emotions. By glancing at someone’s face, people know whether someone is happy or angry, frightened, or confused. Now computers are learning to do the same, with help from a Waltham company.

Affectiva Inc., a spinoff from the Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, develops software that scans videos of the human face in search of the same visual cues that humans instinctively recognize – a furrowed brow, the curve of the lips, a wrinkled nose. The company’s Affdex software can instantly measure 15 of these “facial action units,” and use the results to calculate a person’s emotional state.

It’s like the “Voight-Kampff test” that Harrison Ford uses in the classic movie “Blade Runner” to tell humans from androids. Only this test is real, and you can run a simple demo version on an Android phone, or an iPhone too.

The heavy-duty version of Affectiva’s software has been used by 33 Fortune 100 companies. Firms like Coca-Cola and Unilever use it with consumer focus groups, to study their reactions to the companies’ TV commercials.

Your TV really is looking back at you. Big Brother isn't only a show! 

The company is working with candymaker Hershey Co. on a promotional kiosk for retail stores that will spit out a piece of chocolate when a customer smiles at the machine. And Affectiva just patented a new offering that can watch users as they watch TV, and use their reactions to suggest different shows and movies they might like.

But Rana el Kaliouby, Affectiva’s chief strategy and science officer, has even grander goals. She hopes to see “emotion chips” become a standard feature in millions of everyday devices, so that our machines will routinely respond to the way we feel.

“We spend a lot of time with our devices, yet our devices have no clue how we’re feeling,” said el Kaliouby, a former MIT research scientist with a doctorate from Cambridge University in the UK. “There’s an opportunity here. Our devices could be more empathetic.”

If a student got stuck on a tough math problem, an empathetic school computer would recognize the confused look on his face, and instantly offer additional help. An office laptop might see that a worker is bored, and suggest that he take a coffee break or play a simple computer game.

I'm sure the boss will love that.

A TV that notices that nobody laughed at last night’s Adam Sandler movie might suggest Woody Allen next time.

Neither is funny, and Woody is a pervert. 

The father of it all is a "Paul Ekman, a psychologist who pioneered the scientific study of facial expressions, and whose work was the inspiration for the Fox Network TV series “Lie to Me.”

Speaking of liars....


So how do you feel about that, readers? 

As for my feelings toward the Boston Globe these days....


Just registering my dislike.