Rosalind W. Picard
MIT Media Laboratory
Not all computers need to pay attention to emotions, or to have emotional abilities. Some machines are useful as rigid tools, and it is fine to keep them that way. However, there are situations where the human-machine interaction could be improved by having machines naturally adapt to their users, and where communication about when, where, how, and how important it is to adapt involves emotional information, possibly including expressions of frustration, confusion, disliking, interest, and more. Affective computing expands humancomputer interaction by including emotional communication together with appropriate means of handling affective information.
This paper highlights recent and ongoing work at the MIT Media Lab in affective computing, computing that relates to, arises from, or deliberately influences emotion. This work currently targets four broad areas related to HCI: (1) Reducing user frustration; (2) Enabling comfortable communication of user emotion; (3) Developing infrastructure and applications to handle affective information; and, (4) Building tools that help develop social-emotional skills.
Not only do many people feel frustration with technology, but they show it. A widely-publicized 1999 study by Concord Communications in the U.S. found that 84% of help-desk managers surveyed said that users admitted to engaging in "violent and abusive" behavior toward computers. It seems that no matter how hard we researchers work on perfecting the machine and interface design, frustration can occur in the interaction. Most HCI research has aimed to prevent frustration, which continues to be an important goal. However, there is also a need to address frustration at run-time. Affective computing can be used to