Overview: Building Emotional Machines

An emotional machine can be described as software or a hardware that can recognize, express and even generate its own emotions. The purpose is to understand the behavior of machine user(s) and accordingly facilitate an emotional smoother and more intuitive interaction with him. Basically its a robot, that is empowered to understand the mental state of a user and interact in a more sensitive way. However it is not easy to dissect human behavior and to build objects that would perform operations like:

 if (user) == sad then offer(coffee) and play (blues!)
 else ask("howdy man?! whatsup?");

Every human being is dynamic in interaction; every set of action can correspond to thousands of possible variables. Further, there are different cultures and individual factors, which have interestingly kept this "emotional" aspect of human behavior abstract. Modeling emotions or emotional states could be very challenging. Even modern day disintegrating paradigms like object oriented thinking, or the traditional school of Psychology and human behavior have failed to categorize emotions into type and categories. However, on the basis of actions-reaction, these emotions can be understood in the form of layers. The interaction may not offer a complete solution but will definitely reduce complexity to a lesser difficult variable arrays. The arrays should be generic and independent of situation, context and cultural background and environment around the particular user.

Why emotions?

We feel that we are alive because of emotions. "I think therefore I am" and "I feel therefore I am". The gratification of "I" of is the popular reason for living. The most popular, famous and well respected personalities in the world so far have had a rich expressions, subtlety and complexity of behavior and highly emotional thoughts. Since industrialization, there have been many researches to strengthen this marriage of machines and human life. All those researches which have made man, make optimum utilization of the abilities of machines Like high productivity, quality focus, multi purpose, multi user approaches have been very popular.

Modern day life style has created a lot of pressure on human brains. They say," Talking " can reduce mental stress and strain. Cyber friendships, becoming real life friendships, even marriages are not unpopular. And in fact the open debate on cyber laws, cheating on net, shows that the so called "Virtual Reality" of yesterday is actual and part of the reality today. Interesting point to be noted here is that this is all effect of plain exchange of textual words. By Ordinary People, With Ordinary for ordinary people. Wonder what capabilities will an scientifically engineered emotional machines could do?

Irrespective of the age, all human beings are well committed to living life as a journey of emotions. Materialism, Religion, Emotions, Spirituality through music, and dance. everyone has read the stories where by religious healing(spiritual, emotional). Exchange of words transformed a person from a murderer to an angel. Which even a modern day medicine science has failed to do so. One important advantage that machine have over humans is that of memory. These machines will recognize the pattern of thinking and cognitive functions of human behavior. Past is either remembered or forgotten. If forgotten, there is no possibility of recovery and if remembered, there are no error correction or detection methods.

In Internet Chat rooms, mere typed words in black and white have been constantly stimulating myriads of emotions. Many people are programming bots which would imitate a human like talking and conversation skill and look real. So far the bots have impressively performed in controlling or managing the chat groups. Their performance has been as impressive as any human would do the job. However, this is controlled environment, and where they do only a limited task. So far they have failed to pass the Turing test of human intelligence.

The Social Need

Man is a social animal. People make relationships due to this social reason; they make them feel good about themselves and about the world and living. Never before the world had such sophisticated medical equipments, so many hospitals and qualified doctors. But still world today has more diseases, ill person than ever before. Why? its all in mind, The increasing social insecurity and lack of communication. The education they give in schools and colleges is for earning money. It is not the education on how to live. The human values, spirituality, emotions can be better taught through machines, because some how people reached a good level of understanding and comfort with computers. Let us analyze the social needs age group wise:

Adolescent Age Group of 8-16 years: The Conflict here is that of Identity Vs Role confusion. Strong efforts to get answer "Who am I"? They also attempt to establish their own identity and think of themselves as separate from parents. They look for support, guidance and an identity to relate with. There is also a Conflict of industry VS inferiority. Important event is school. At this age, the only source of pleasure is of a "job completed!!" Children need to be productive and do work on their own. They are physically and mentally ready to do work for it. Interaction with peers also play imperative role for a wide variety of events like academics, group activities and friends. Difficulty with any of these can lead to sense of inferiority.

Adult hood - Age 16-34 years: Conflict here is for intimacy and isolation. Important events: love relations. Here, important events are love relationships and intimacy. It refers to one's ability to relate to another human being on a deep personal level. Most of the people in these categories have not developed a sense of identity, fear of being a misfit. These people are willing to be open and committed to jobs, and challenges.

Grand Parents, Age 65+. Conflict: integrity and despair. Important event: reflection on and acceptance of one's life. The important event at this sage is to accept one's whole life and reflecting on that life in a positive. They want to achieve sense of integrity that is coming in terms with death. Accepting responsibility for life and being able to undo past and achieve satisfaction with self is essential. The most positive out comes here is the sense of fulfillment of life and accept death as unavoidable reality. Most of the people in this age group are not able to obtain feeling of fulfillment and completeness with despair and fear death.

Further, there are different emotional modes of human interaction, like ordering a sales clerk, is different than the relationship we have with our mother. Such communication is very formal, like an act and can not induce emotions. The first step is to create an environment, which has a feel easy factor for everyone. It is easy to connect with the inner consciousness of a person when he is at the comfort in his home, than in a formal public gathering. Therefore if there is responsive machine which can be personalized as per the mental state of the user, it would make everything more meaningful and alive in the world.

How can machine generate emotions?

Literature, Art, Dance, Music are all forms of emotional expressions. They can also be a source to induce emotions, and perhaps in combination with Pictures and Video even make a person relive the experience. Pen is mightier than the sword. Sometimes written and spoken text is so powerful so much enchanting that it creates a illusion around a person. Its all in the mind, they say. Stories and miracles in which Doctors, Saints or Psychologists have healed the ailing person. Just by verbal communication. So far the internet has been like radio, one way broadcasting. Slowly and gradually it will be the 100% interactive medium of entertainment, fun and leisure.

One on One talk immediately generates emotions. According to many internet surveys, Chatting for is the biggest reason why people get online. Gratification of wants/needs for happiness and pleasure is a social want, in fact a need. Further, there is a lack of human-human interaction in modern society. Some one who can promote and spread the message of good communication, revitalize the good values of communication, heart to heart talk and virtues from upfront would be appreciated.

Chat bots are small stepping stones towards building anything close to an emotional machine. So far the bots are only able to understand emotions that are expressed by words or short sentences. Like "Hello!", "How are you?", "I don't like you", this is step is just like the "hello world!" in programming language or single words.

Maybe emotions can't be categorized, but they can be understood like colors. All colors are made out of Red, Blue and Green. Perhaps with more than just 3 basic colors, we can generate a hierarchical tree for mapping human emotions and predicting behavior. If we add self learning ability to bots, then capabilities and efficiency would increase manifolds. If a bot is able to outsmart human curiosity and make a big illusion, it will conquer the unreal or non living factor related to machines.

Characterization is an important aspect. In world of computers, there have been many efforts to shape up machines. Characterization facilitates easy and interactive way to understand and accept information. One can observe a conscious effort for this direction in MS Office assistant, Web Monkey, Japanese Pet Robots etc. However, the characters should be easily related by everyone, from Great Britain to South Asia.

How to make machines more human like?

In listening, facial expressions and body language can be of great help in understanding emotional state of a person. However, people have different personalities, they may think, react, behave, speak or feel different as same time, or same at different times.

The quality of experience that a person has while talking to a bot is a function of that person's behavior plus the resulting behavior of the responsive mechanism. Obvious exceptions to these are the robots that do monologs or that are otherwise unresponsive to what the person says or does. A very proactive response mechanism depends more on the content of proactive element, and less on the person since the person's choices are usually limited in bot proactive situations. So depending upon what the person does, he may or may not have a satisfactory experience with the robot.

The expectations, The requirement and the purpose of the designed responsive system should be clearly defined. Does the person expect a will smith or a priest or a funny joker? Bots can only decipher words or in very short sentences. Human experiences, knowledge, age, intelligence's, specific subject, domain expertise and human interest can affect the dept to which a person may be able to engage the bot. External Environmental Factors that could effect human-bot conversation are disturbance, duration of chat, accuracy, quality of information exchanged, distraction and interface of interaction that exists between the two.

Ways to make conversation more stimulating

A little conflict in conversations, if artificially induced can work as steroids. Conflict allows evaluating and helps in avoiding conformity. A little disagreement marked by a bit of tension, leading to compromise on selected ideas or alternatives and finally reaffirming a closure of the issue by a reaffirmation of support. All the while, communication should jump back and forth between three tracks - task, topic and relation. Topic means the specific item that is being discussed. Relation is the interpersonal relation that has been created till that time. Sometimes, a small conflict strengthens the relationship. With a non withdrawing, careful and prepared appropriate text. if time permits, every discussion can happily end with an immediate resolution.

Topics for discussions should be selected very carefully. Topics are chosen in a strategic fashion, which can help us evaluate, control, judgment, superiority and neutrality of each user. The focus or main attention is to be paid to the main task or question in hand, whereby user can communicate on topic, openly and honestly with spontaneity. Such presentations will make any user understand replies better and generate willingness to talk more. For a long term communication a detailed and well elaborated collection of information is required, which can help in predicting the future questions and answers

Remember you can visit the Message Store to discuss this essay. Comments are always welcome!. There are already replies in the thread, why not join in?