Move over, Rover - for computers with attitude

Last year a small group of scientists and entrepreneurs in Melbourne and Singapore quietly launched a business consortium with the potential to change the human psyche forever.

Professor Peter Dyson, (then) Director (Research and Innovation) La Trobe University, at the launch of Human Mind Innovations Pty Ltd.

Chief Inventor Associate Professor Rajiv Khosla explains the core technology for monitoring emotional change states at the launch of HMI Pty Ltd.

HMI Pty Ltd principals Anand Thyagarajan (left), Peter Barnes (centre) and Dr Rajiv Khosla (right) demonstrating the emotionally intelligent software.

Computer consciousness in progress in real time - projected onto a big screen.

Working with some of the top minds in corporate and university research laboratories in Australia, Japan, India and Singapore, the scientists are developing and licensing emotionally intelligent Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) that can interact with humans in an emotionally intelligent manner.

They are developing, in other words, emotionally intelligent computers — which their new company, Human Mind Innovations (HMI) Pty Ltd, will license and commercialise.

The company merges the research interests of its principals — La Trobe University management and IT academic, electrical engineer and Chief Inventor Associate Professor Rajiv Khosla, from the University's School of Business, and Information Technologies entrepreneur Anand Thyagarajan, co-founder of Matrix View Ltd. and founder of technology and life sciences incubator Aadyana Holdings, Singapore.

Strongly supported by a strategic alliance with the multi-billion global electronics corporation NEC Japan — which is keenly interested in all aspects of humanising technology — the joint venture company is developing and commercialising a patent "Method and System for Monitoring Emotional State Changes," filed last year. Further patents are expected to be filed in the near future.

The end result of 18 years' research into human behavioural profiling using intelligent computing techniques, Dr Khosla's technologically advanced brainchild is soon to make a glittering debut on the world stage: an exemplar of a 21st Century smart machine.

Long suffering from perceptions that "they may be fast and smart but they'll never compensate for lack of consciousness", the high-tech progeny of this global alliance of IT, business management and engineering expertise will soon challenge just that constraint. Complete with data compression systems, business savvy, and sharply-honed emotional intelligence, these computers will not only change the way we live, they will also change the way we do business.

Get ready for computers that can read human emotions.

The ICTs set to emerge from HMI will take human-computer interaction to a new threshold, where computers will do what few humans can: recognise, measure and evaluate human emotional intelligence. These computers will give us direct feedback on our changing emotional states — taking their cue from our body language, especially our facial expressions. Face-to-face, and even over the Internet, they will monitor and simultaneously correlate two critical outputs of human reasoning: our cognitive and emotional responses — and then analyse the results.

The technology merges a plethora of cross-disciplinary techniques embracing psychology, management, soft computing, video and image-processing and tiny web cameras to map the multitude of subtle changes the human face manifests in various behavioural situations.

Fed into an intelligent video and image-processing system these transitory images are instantaneously correlated into real-time emotional profiles — then re-correlated with cognitively-oriented profiles generated simultaneously at the computer keyboard by a set of behaviourally-framed questions.

While cognitive profiling capabilities are not new, this dual-stream real-time profiling has never been done before. The combined results deliver significantly more direct and meaningful feedback based on the subjects' rational and emotional characteristics. According to its inventor these are humanistic and philosophical breakthroughs as well as a major technological achievement — with particular potential for stress management, management planning, service delivery and health care.

"What we're trying to do is humanise the technology. We want to develop emotionally intelligent ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) that interact in a human-like manner with people," says Dr Khosla.

"We want people to feel that ICTs are 'real life' and they're looking after you: that you can use them for your own benefit. We want ICTs to empower people to become commander-in-chief of their own lives; to improve their quality of life at work and at home in an emotionally intelligent manner."

For employers, among the most obvious beneficiaries, the technology offers a new tool for benchmarking emotionally and culturally fit employees. But that's only one application, and prototype robots to deliver it are closer than you think — for HR managers and many other applications needing to factor emotional intelligence into their decision-making. (Think customer service providers, HR planners, health care providers, business intelligence managers, driving instructors, tourism and holiday planners, emergency services managers.)

The consortium and NEC Corporation are sponsoring a team of researchers from Japan, Australia and India — including three from the highly-ranked Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and one from Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology — to work in NEC's C & C Innovation Research Laboratories in Japan (which integrates Computers and Communications research), and La Trobe University's Business Systems and Knowledge Modelling Laboratory (affiliated with HMI) in Melbourne, within the next six months, to develop prototypes for many of these.

And then, move over Rover — for the savvy bot with IQ and EI (emotional intelligence).

Dr Khosla is available to demonstrate the technology. Images also available.


Dr Rajiv Khosla
Associate Professor Information Systems
Department of Management & Marketing
School of Business, La Trobe University
T: +61 3 9479 3064