On Oct. 4, Dr. Rosalind Picard spoke at Samford’s 15th Davis Lecture and addressed the growing presence of artificial intelligence in the technology-driven world of today.
Picard is a researcher, professor and director of the Affective Computing Research Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her lecture, Picard focused on aspects of her leadership with Empatica Inc., and Affectiva Inc., which both create technology to improve emotional and physical health and awareness.
The technology that Picard’s research groups and startups design and build, places the value of human interaction and relationships on the forefront. Within the technology startups Empatica and Affectiva, promoting extended intelligence in products is valued over artificial intelligence. As a result of these goals, the sensors and applications that Picard’s groups design aim to improve human interactions when it comes to detecting emotions, well-being and even future seizures.
Picard discussed two products in detail that reflect her passion for gaining emotional and affective knowledge. She first described the idea and process behind her startup’s application called Affdex. This application processes faces on computers and smart phones and classifies complex emotions. It can even distinguish between frustrated and genuine smiles and facial expressions. The Affdex program is currently used globally in education, gaming, health care and personal devices. This artificial intelligence product can help those who struggle to understand and read other people’s emotions and expressions through an app called Affdex Me.
Besides helping these people, this technology promotes human understanding in its design.
“(We are) recognizing the importance of positive
social interactions, a shared smile, listening to somebody, (and) a moment between two people-not between a person and a machine and not just in the phone either,” Picard said.
Picard’s Empatica team developed revolutionary technology in the field of recognizing stress and seizures. With their Electrodermal Activity Sensors, people can wear technology that indicates stress levels through electric changes on the skin’s surface. This sensor appears as a casual fitness accessory but can work to save the lives of those suffering from epilepsy. Currently, these sensors can connect to smart phones and send alerts to emergency contacts when the wearer’s stress levels reach dangerous points. Notifying help when the wearer is experiencing a seizure can help prevent Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy.
These sensors are wearable for healthy people as well who want to discover what is causing stress throughout the day. One goal for Empatica is to utilize artificial intelligence to predict the wearer’s future physical health, mood and stress levels. Picard also noted the sensors’ versatility.
“It turns out that the technology we build is very good at detecting when things are changing with your emotions, with your social interactions, with your stress (and) with your sleep,” she said.
Picard and her teams strive to develop technology that does not take human interaction out of the equation for improving physical, mental and social health; the Affdex program and wearable Activity Sensors are testaments to that goal.
Picard concluded the night with her vision for the future of artificial intelligence.
“It comes back to relationship and human contact … we seem to have been made to connect with one another and that is so important for promoting the best kind of health and well-being,” she said.
Carol is a staff writer from Huntsville, Alabama. She is a junior English and Religion double major.