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Smile, Frown, Grimace, and Grin--Your Facial Expression Is the Next Frontier in Big Data


Affectivas basic program analyzes the face 20 times a second for 46 localized expressions of happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, anger, disgust and contempt, plus interest and confusion.

Affective computing seeks to close the communication gap between human beings and machines by adding a new mode of interaction, including the nonverbal language of smiles, smirks and raised eyebrows.

Credit: Naomi Shavin/Smithsonian

Affectiva co-founder Rana el Kaliouby sees the use of computers to detect and interpret human facial expressions as the next logical step in the progression from keyboard to mouse to touchscreen to voice recognition.

The field of "affective computing" seeks to close the communication gap between human beings and machines by adding a new mode of interaction, including the nonverbal language of smiles, smirks, and raised eyebrows, according to el Kaliouby. She notes emotions can guide or inform our rational thinking, but they are missing from the digital experience. "Your smartphone knows who you are and where you are, but it doesn't know how you feel," el Kaliouby says. She believes devices could control a car or things in the home such as lighting, temperature, and music more effectively if they know how humans feel.

The core customers of Affectiva have been advertising, marketing, and media companies, but el Kaliouby believes the company's technology will be a boon to healthcare when it comes to getting feedback from patients on drug testing or treatment programs.

From Smithsonian
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