The Christian Science Monitor has an article on recent advances in affective computing…Technology enabling computers to recognize human emotions by ‘reading’ facial expressions is still in its infancy, but the potential applications are immense. Rosalind Picard, founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group at MIT, has been leading the charge to develop machines that can recognize and respond to human emotions.
Current applications of such technology range from assisting people who have problems recognizing other people’s emotions (people with Autism for example), to improving security through emotion recognition, identification, and lie detection.
From the Affective Computing Research Group website:
“Affective Computing research combines engineering and computer science with psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, sociology, education, psychophysiology, value-centered design, ethics, and more.”
I can also envision this technology eventually being applied to personal computing. Technologies like this could help computers sense when users are confused or frustrated and offer assistance. Coupled with monitoring of signals that indicate arousal and anxiety (like heartrate and galvanic skin responses or GSR), affectively aware computers could control elements of a game or application that increase physiological arousal, like colour, contrast and pacing. Moving even farther into the future, I can envision these technologies being applied in robots to help the machines interact with humans. Asimov’s “Robots” books come to mind for me here.