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Automotive Company Affectiva Automotive AI Human Perception AI

Our Evolution from Emotion AI to Human Perception AI

04.02.19

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It’s hard to believe that Affectiva created Emotion AI just a few years ago. When the company first started, our co-founders had the vision that one day emotion recognition technology would be ubiquitous. After all, we live in a world full of hyper-connected devices and advanced AI systems, with amazing cognitive capabilities. These technologies have a lot of IQ, but are severely lacking in EQ, or emotional intelligence. As a result, our interactions with AI systems that are designed to engage with humans, are transactional, superficial and often ineffective.

We knew that if AI had emotional intelligence, it could interact with humans in the same way that people engage with one another. We also knew that this was an underserved area of AI, and quickly found ourselves at a new frontier. We deliberately set out to name and define the space, to seed and lead the market. Artificial emotional intelligence, or Emotion AI, was born.

It’s been amazing to see how Emotion AI has taken off since then. We successfully created this new category within the AI space, and analysts, reporters, investors and even competitors have latched onto it. Today, there is a rich ecosystem of Emotion AI players, and it’s projected to become a multi-billion dollar industry.

But as the Emotion AI ecosystem has evolved, our technology has evolved as well. When you think about building AI with emotional intelligence, we’ve realized that it’s about more than just emotions. Think about people you know with high EQ - they have good social skills, perceptual awareness and more.

We’re at an inflection point where we have the opportunity to define something much bigger than Emotion AI. It’s rare that you have the opportunity to create a new category within your industry… but we’re ready to do it twice.

Introducing Human Perception AI

We envision a world where technology understands all things human. To achieve that, we’re pioneering Human Perception AI: software that can detect not only human emotions, but complex cognitive states, such as drowsiness and distraction. And, in the future, it will be able to understand human activities, interactions and objects people use.

Building AI that understands all things human is no small feat. But with our proven approaches to deep learning, computer vision and speech science, and the massive amounts of real-world people data we continue to collect and annotate, we’re well on our way. What’s more, by taking a multi-modal approach to human perception -- analyzing both facial and vocal expressions -- we’re able to get a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of human states.

Why do we need Human Perception AI?

So, Affectiva’s technology is capable of detecting more than just emotions; but we’re not just doing this because we can. We believe that Human Perception AI will be make-or-break to take AI to the next level.

Consider the potential for conversational interfaces and social robots. Today, our exchanges with smart devices are often frustrating and ineffective. These technologies -- designed to interface with humans -- are significantly hindered without a deep understanding of what’s happening with the people they interact with. If we want these AI assistants to be truly useful, they need to be able to understand us on a deeper level.

What’s more, some future innovations will simply not be possible without Human Perception AI. This is especially true as AI takes on roles that were traditionally held by humans.

Take robotaxis, for example. When there’s no longer a human driver behind the wheel, how will we ensure the wellbeing of the people in that vehicle? What will happen if a rider is uncomfortable or in need of assistance? How do these mobility providers establish their brand that hinges on a stellar passenger experience? The vehicle will need to be able to take stock of passengers’ state based on what they’re doing, their expressions, the environment and objects they’re interacting with, and a range of other factors, in order to be able to provide a safe and comfortable experience.  

Putting the Human Before the Artificial

It’s easy to get wrapped up in what the future of AI holds, but we need to remember the motivation behind AI: people, and the potential to improve the way we work, live and interact with one another. It’s critically important to take a human-centric approach to AI, and at Affectiva, we believe that Human Perception AI will help to bring the focus of AI back to the people who will benefit from it. Building AI that can understand us for what makes us human is the only way we’ll begin to trust in the technology.

We’re excited to embark on this next chapter, building on what’s already possible with Emotion AI, and taking it a step further to replicate the power of human perception in artificial intelligence. But there’s still much to be explored, developed, and discussed. Specifically, there are important considerations to address for the ethical development and deployment of AI systems -- especially those designed to interact with humans. Ethical AI hinges on diversity -- of teams, data, use cases and more -- but that’s a larger conversation for another blog post.

Keep an eye on our blog or subscribe to our newsletter for more of Affectiva’s efforts to build ethical human-centric AI, and to follow along as Human Perception AI unfolds.

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