Emotional AI: Human Emotion and the Impact of AI Technologies

Emoji displayed on handheld device screen

The Emotional AI Lab is an international research group that examines the ethical, societal and cultural impact of artificial intelligence technologies in relation to data about human emotion, moods and affective states. The lab is led by Prof Andrew McStay at Bangor University and Dr Lachlan Urquhart, Lecturer in Technology Law at the University of Edinburgh, is an investigator in the research group.  

‘Emotional AI’ refers to technologies that use affective computing and artificial intelligence techniques to sense, learn about and interact with human emotional life. Techniques to try and sense and discerns people’s emotions and expressions include analysis of online sentiment, voice analytics, eye-tracking, and the use of virtual reality and augmented reality. 

While there is much value in studying Emotional Al, in that it promises better experiences of services, devices and technologies, there are also wider considerations, such as: Is it desirable that emotions are machine-readable? What racial bias is there in computer vision and training data? Are protections adequate? Is tracking ethical, such as at-home emotion tracking?  

With work funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Japanese Science and Technology Agency, the group seeks to generate conversation among UK and Japanese academics, industry, artists, NGOs and regulators about these technologies. Most recently, this has been in two major projects: