Affective Computing Brings Empathy to Technology


Affective Computing brings the value of emotional intelligence to the digital world by using emotions to enhance productivity. Affective Computing merges computer science, human psychology, and cognitive research into software that can enhance the effectiveness of digital tools and their interactions with their human users.

In psychological terms, ‘Affective’ Computing measures a user’s mental ‘affect’ – their emotional mood or mindset – while they engage with the software. The purpose of the programming is to mimic the human trait of ’empathy,’ which is the ability to sense and respond to another person’s levels of comfort or distress. The theory suggests that computers that are ‘in tune’ with their user’s emotions are better able to provide appropriate responses based on that comprehension.

Understanding the concept is easier when it’s considered in the human arena. You already have highly valued human friends who can sense when you’re tired, or angry, or upset. Because spending time with your friends makes you feel good, you seek out these closely held community members on a regular basis.

An Affective Computer program and its related hardware have components that detect those same emotions in you the way your friends can. Cameras, microphones, sensors, and software logic ‘read’ your face, movements, and postures, and analyze that data to infer your mood. The software then suggests programming options in direct response to your current emotional state.

What is the future of Affective Computing?

The human brain is wired to require a balance between its cognitive and emotional capacities in order to make sense of the vast quantities of data it experiences every day. The emotions of fear, joy, and anger all trigger the thoughts and responses related to those conditions. Ergo, any situation that engages any aspect of the human condition can be appropriate for Affective Computing capabilities.

Recent studies indicate that Affective Computing programs can improve not just how people interact with their digital systems, but also how well they perform within that engagement and how good they feel when they finish their project.

Affective Computing and Decision-making

Most people aren’t aware of their transient emotional state as they move through their day. However, these subliminal sensations often dictate their emotional state, from how well they connect with their communities, to whether or not they will enjoy or fear certain situations, to how their internal responses to their experiences will influence their actions. They also play a significant role in the decisions people make. Affective Computing that triggers subconscious emotions can also strongly influence the decisions they make.

Affective Computing and Consumer Behavior

Years of research have confirmed that consumers rely on their emotions as much as their brains when searching the market for products or services. Shoppers are more likely to choose one product over another when their choice entices their interest or arouses their emotions more than its competitors. Further, consumers make these choices even if they aren’t aware of the role their emotions are playing in that decision. Manufacturers who embed into their products the software that triggers these emotional responses may have an edge over their competitors who don’t embrace the innovation.

Affective Computing and Learning

Studies have also shown that a student’s emotional state has a significant influence over their capacity to learn. Students with high emotional skills such as self-confidence, the ability to cooperate, and the skill to regulate their emotions enhance not only their capacity to learn but have life-long influences over their levels of success in their work and home lives. Adding Affective Computing technology to the burgeoning library of education programming offers students of every capacity the opportunity to gain more value from their educational options.

As more people recognize the value of affective computing, it will become more prevalent in virtually all sectors of society.

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