Tuesday, 07 May 2019 15:56

AI needs EQ, says Affectiva founder

Affectiva co-founder and CEO Rana el Kaliouby Affectiva co-founder and CEO Rana el Kaliouby Stephen Withers

Humanity needs machines that can understand "all things human" and take into account our emotional and cognitive state, according to artificial emotional intelligence company Affectiva's co-founder and chief executive, Rana el Kaliouby.

At Dell Technologies World last week, el Kaliouby said that because AI is taking on tasks previously done by humans, we need to rethink our relationship with technology.

Part of this is the need for reciprocal trust: that is, humans trusting AI, and AI trusting humans. Sometimes trust is explicit, but more often it is implicit, she observed.

One component of making this possible could be by giving technology an "EQ" (emotional quotient), she suggested. An example drawn from healthcare would be to find an objective measure of how a patient is feeling.

Affectiva automates the Facial Action Coding System to get a real-time measure. A demonstration of the software can be seen in the company's AffdexMe app for Android and iOS.

el Kaliouby believes a social contract between AI and humans should have four tenets.

It should be reciprocal in the sense of taking into account the other party's situation. For example, a semi-smart vehicle should take an appropriate action if its driver shows signs of tiredness, and a self-driving vehicle should change its behaviour if one or more passengers appear nauseous.

It should respect data. el Kaliouby said there are five billion faces in Affectiva's data set. It is important to ensure that the data is suitably diverse, for example in terms of gender, ethnicity, age, and the presence of features such as glasses, beards and hijabs. This diversity of data has revealed some interesting cultural differences, she noted. For example, women in the US smile a lot more than men, but in the UK the incidence of smiles is about the same for men and women.

Diverse teams are important, not only in terms of gender, age, ethnicity and so on, but also characteristics such as experience and background.

It should be ethical. One example is a respect for privacy, and to that end Affectiva does not work in the surveillance or security areas. The lead investor in the company's most recent funding round was attracted by Affectiva's ethics, she said.

Another example is that the company's technology is being used to help autistic children to read expressions and to look at the person who is speaking to them.

In addition, healthcare sector has several robots that are being designed to augment nursing staff by working with patients and escalating issues to a human nurse when necessary.

AI should be about meeting human needs, said el Kaliouby.

Disclosure: The writer attended Dell Technologies World as a guest of the company.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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