Wouldn’t it be nice if a computer could sense how frustrated you get when it takes too long to get to the right customer service representative on the phone? Researchers at MIT’s Media Lab think so.
MIT professor Rosalind Picard and colleagues are teaching computers how to recognize human emotions so they can be more sensitive to our needs. They started a company called Affectiva to help collect data and analyze and record thousands of facial expressions.
Researchers hope this new technology will improve customer service and marketing research. It can also be used to create new treatments for autism.
“Pretty much all communication, all of our experience has emotion,” Picard told NPR.
Researchers started teaching computers how to recognize human emotions by showing them Disney videos because Picard says it was the best way to show a range of human expressions. The researchers soon realized they needed a wider range of human emotions for the computers to study.
One of the company’s products, Affdex records viewer reactions to commercials. Marketers are using the product to measure the emotional connection people have with advertising.
Picard tells NPR:
“Most people think [that] technology doesn’t need emotion,” she says. “But it does need to show respect for people’s feelings. And you can’t really show respect for people’s feelings unless you can see people’s feelings.”