Our emotions influence every aspect of our lives — how we learn, how we communicate, how we make decisions. Yet they’re absent from our digital lives; the devices and apps we interact with have no way of knowing how we feel. Scientist Rana el Kaliouby aims to change that. She demos a powerful new technology that reads your facial expressions and matches them to corresponding emotions. This “emotion engine” has big implications, she says, and could change not just how we interact with machines — but with each other



  • devoid – entirely lacking or free from
  • homesick – experiencing a longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it
  • furrow – a line or wrinkle on a person’s face
  • smirk – smile in an irritatingly smug, conceited, or silly way
  • poker face – an impassive expression that hides one’s true feelings
  • empower – give (someone) the authority or power to do something


Think about it

Answer the questions below. Pause at times indicated in brackets.

  • What was Rana’s experience of living in Cambridge? What frustrated her? (1:34)
  • What kind of technology have Rana and her team worked on? (2:29)
  • What is an “action unit?” What is it used for? (3:17)
  • How are computers taught to differentiate between different facial expressions (eg. smile and smirk)? (4:30)
  • What findings has the research into human emotions produced? (7:00)
  • What are some possible applications of emotion detecting technology?


Practice makes perfect

Fill in the blank spaces with the missing words. Use ONE word per blank space.

I started on this path 15 years ________. I was a computer scientist in Egypt, and I ________ just gotten accepted to a Ph.D. program at Cambridge University. So I did something quite unusual for a young newlywed Muslim Egyptian wife: With the support ________ my husband, who had to stay in Egypt, I packed my bags and I moved ________  England. At Cambridge, thousands of miles away from home, I realized I was spending more hours with my laptop than I did with any other human. Yet despite this intimacy, my laptop ________ absolutely no idea how I ________ feeling. It had no idea if I was happy, having a bad day, or stressed, confused, and so that got frustrating. Even worse, as I communicated online with my family back home, I felt that all my emotions disappeared in cyberspace. I was homesick, I was lonely, and ________ some days I was actually crying, but all I had to communicate these emotions was this. (Laughter) Today’s technology has lots of I.Q., but no E.Q.; lots of cognitive intelligence, but ________ emotional intelligence. So that _________ me thinking, what if our technology could sense our emotions? What if our devices could sense ________ we felt and reacted accordingly, just the way an emotionally intelligent friend would? Those questions led me and my team to create technologies that can read and respond to our emotions, and our starting point was ________ human face.


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