By Kate Wilson
Building robots to understand human emotions is a polarizing topic. With individuals heralding the technology both as a dystopian nightmare that will render people obsolete, and as vital for improving human experience, few can agree on what the future of expressive robots will look like.
Rosalind Picard, however, knows more than most. Currently a professor of media arts and sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as a cofounder of two tech startups, Picard wrote the book on creating robots with emotional intelligence. Credited in 1997 with coming up with the concept of affective computing—a branch of computer science, she defines to the Georgia Straight, that explores how machines can be programmed to deliberately influence human emotions—she was inspired to pursue the subject after exploring the structures of the brain.