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Affective Computing & Digital Personal Assistants — How affected do you want to become?

TEAMS Design Trend Story Electronic II

Read part I and part III

By Kai Gehrmann

The ongoing digitalization and their vast new opportunities have led to the necessity and uprise of assisting systems. These little “butlers” are a big relief to manage and actually help us profit from the many opportunities the digital world has for us — Without, we would struggle hard to keep up with the faster and growing information flow we would have to handle within our precious time.

Digital Personal assistant systems, therefore, can be seen as a logical evolution: Not only helping us within the context of a single application but understanding the „bigger” picture and supporting us in a more personal way.

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Photo Credits: Unsplash

The most usual way of interaction so far is voice recognition and gestures, but even if voice or gesture interaction would be flawless, seamless and intuitive, we are still missing something essential: emotion. Our emotional bonding with A.I is currently limited because of either of their lack of emotional understanding or affection to us.

To improve this interaction and make digital personal assistants empathic, they will have to recognize our emotions, interpret those and maybe even simulate their own. If you haven’t seen the movies „Moon”, „Her” or „Bladerunner 2049", watch these in the mentioned order and you will completely understand the potential and impact of affective interaction.

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Photo Credits: Unsplash

Besides these promising science-fiction visions, there are 3 big areas where affective computing starts enhancing our relations to digital personal assistants right now.

1. Affective Smart Home Assistants

The increasing amount of smart or connected devices at home is leading to the beneficial use of mood-matching and emotion-aware interaction with affective smart home assistants. They will help to better pre-select proper choices or directly adapt and trigger actions suiting our moods.

2. Affective Preventive Healthcare Assistants

Electronic devices track our wellbeing and support us in achieving a healthier lifestyle. Digital personal assistants therefore need to highly adapt to the specific behavior and motivation level of the individual to be considered as a trustworthy companion. Big data and cloud-computing will also help those systems to even better understand and predict or forecast harms or dangers to the individual user through anonymous comparisons and analysis of statistic data.

3. Affective Robots & Cobots as Assistants

It will be absolutely crucial for any type of robot or cobot to be able to communicate and behave affective to gain acceptance and trust by the user. What’s more, these physical assistants also have a real physical impact to user, which means their motion and movement needs to be affective as well.

One major reluctance and usability constraint of all affective systems intentionally left out so far is the questions about the analysis, gathering, protection, and usage as well as the sovereignty of the very intimate data.

It is out of question: Users need to have 100% transparency in understanding the implications of using affective systems and the data they collect to make their conscious choice of how much they actually want to be affected.

This is part of an ongoing series we at TEAMS Design are producing to discuss future trends we are researching in the electronic industry.

Originally published at on September 13, 2018.

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