Can Technology empathize with us?
How would you react if your computer asks you the reason why you looked frustrated or upset? Imagine a real-time situation when your phone could comfort you after a sad call? Or if the electronics at your home like the music, lighting, or other aspects adjust according to your mood after you had a bad day at work all doing this without being directed?
Emotions form a fundamental aspect of the human existence, an aspect which has been widely ignored by technology for the simple reasons that the emotions cannot be quantifiable and because the technology did not really exist to read them.
It may sound futuristic, but the times are near when computers can read your emotions and the concept of emotional intelligence is not far off. Call it the heady blend of psychology and computer science, Affective computing as it is being called is the latest trend and being developed for use in many applications.
Affective computing also coined as artificial emotional intelligence, or emotion AI is the study and development of systems which are programmed to simulate, interpret and process human affects. Affective computing is an interdisciplinary field which spans computer science, psychology, and cognitive science blended all together.
Affective computing is based on the concept that something as ephemeral as emotion can be quantified and captured as its own data point. With multiple pattern recognition tasks, AI can be vastly superior when compared to humans when it comes to reading subtle emotions on a user’s face.
Dating Back to History
The concept of Affective computing dates back as late as the 1970s and 80s when Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen developed their Facial Action Coding System (FACS). FACS was inspired by Darwin’s ideas to a far more empirically precise degree far more than even he could have imagined. FACS works on writing a code where every tiny movement of the face can be described with Action Units.
Further, the advent of modern computing systems opened up new possibilities to the Affective computing technology, with the development of facial recognition technology, offered researchers to start encoding emotions into machines.
Market Potential of Emotional Computing
As per market estimates, over the next five years, Affective Computing market will witness new heights surging to a growth rate of 43.0% CAGR in terms of revenue, with the global market reaching to US$ 1710 million by 2024 up from US$ 200 million in 2019.
In the forecast period from 2019-2024, development around Touchless AI models are expected to grow at new heights taking the maximum pie of the affective computing market between 2017 and 2025.
There are a few challenges as well into the adoption, these include slow digitization rate prevalent across emerging economies couples with exuberant cost of making affective computing systems with other operational challenges are the major speed breakers to the dominance of the global affective computing market.
The Global Application
The potential application for affective computing is limitless, especially when the market for affective computing systems has just started to evolve. With affective technology being adopted globally across multiple domains, the applications extend to healthcare, media & advertisement, market research, automotive, retail, communication and education.
In Education, E-learning programs could automatically detect when the learner is having difficulty to read and understand to further offer additional explanations or information. Additionally, E-therapy could help deliver psychological health services online as effectively as live in-person counseling.
The medical domain seems to gain the most, where Affective Computing applications are being created to assist people on the Autism spectrum interact. Technology can enable medical devices to alert the wearer the changes happening to their biometric data like the heart rate, temperature, and etc. moments before and after a dangerous epileptic seizure.
Research labs are working on devices programmed to sense every emotion that ranges from pain to depression, something which is difficult to accurately diagnose at present and even programs which can monitor movements which are associated with acute chronic pain to offer vital suggestions for physiotherapy for the cure.
Summing up, the time is near; where your refrigerator might suggest you to skip the ice cream tonight because your stress is high and suggest you to take a soothing soup instead, and your car may warn you to drive attentively because you are talking on the phone while driving, and your phone might encourage you to take breaks because you’re getting frustrated after that bad office day. Are you ready to witness when Technology gets Emotional?