10 Things You Didn’t Know about Affectiva CEO Rana el Kaliouby

Rana el Kaliouby was born in Egypt in 1978. She is a businesswoman, computer scientist, and entrepreneur who now lives in America. She is best-known for her contributions to research and technology development relating to facial expression recognition. This is part of facial recognition that is designed to help identify emotions in the face. She has specifically focused on the subtle changes to expression people make in real life situations. Prior to this, those working in this field were dependent on actors coming to the laboratory and making exaggerated caricature expressions. Rana el Kaliouby is currently the CEO of Affectiva and is responsible for leading the Emotion Science team who use data science, machine learning, and computer vision to understand people’s behaviors and feelings. Her company has received $14 million from investors to continue research and development in this field. Here are ten things you didn’t know about Affectiva CEO Rana el Kaliouby.

1. She Has Studied in Both Cairo and Cambridge

Rana studied for both her Bachelor of Science and her Master of Science degrees at the American University of Cairo. She moved to England to study for her Ph.D. which she received from Newnham College at the  University of Cambridge.

2. She Once Worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Prior to co-founding Affectiva, she worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a research scientist. Initially, she was working towards improving interactions between humans and computers. However, she soon became intrigued by the possibility of using the technology to improve interactions between humans.

3. She Pioneered the Emotional Hearing Aid

During her time working in the Affective Computing group at the MIT Media Lab, she was part of the team that developed the emotional hearing aid. This is a pair of glasses that can read emotions. This gadget was included in the Top 100 Innovations of 2006 by the New York Times.

4. She Has Won Many Awards

In recognition of her work, el Kaliouby has won many awards. Lists in which she has been included are the MIT TR35 2012, Mass High Tech Top 20 Women to Watch 2014, Entrepreneurs Magazine’s 7 Women to Watch in 2014, and the 2013 Wired Smart List.

5. She is in Several Societies

She is a member of several societies, including Nahdet El Mahrousa, Association of Children’s Museums, ACM, British Machine Vision Association, and IEEE. She has also been inducted into the ‘Women in Engineering’ Hall of Fame.

6. She Has Identified 24 Facial Landmarks

el Kaliouby’s research has led her to identify 24 facial landmarks. Each of these landmarks will move in different ways depending on the emotion being expressed at that time.

7. She is a Professional Public Speaker

This successful entrepreneur is hired to speak at many events on the topics in which she specializes. She talks about her work at keynote addresses, conference talks, and panels. She also delivers speeches at industry-related events.

8. She is Particularly Interested in the Benefits of Emotion Recognition to Autism

Kaliouby is particularly interested in how emotion recognition may benefit those with autism. She first became interested in this when she was studying human-computer interaction. She realized that if this technology could be applied to improve human communications it may benefit those with autism. After she identified the facial landmarks, she recognized that this could also benefit the parents and carers of those with autism to better understand their emotions. Those with autism often have different facial expressions to reflect emotion and by identifying these nuances, there is the potential to identify and understand their feelings.

9. Many Newspapers Have Reported on Her Work

On many occasions, Rana el Kaliouby has been interviewed by the media and newspapers have also frequently reported on her work. Some of these publications and media companies have included the Fast Company, The New York Times, TechCrunch, TIME Magazine, CNN, Forbes, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Reddit, and CBS.

10. Her Affectiva Co-Founder is Rosalind Picard

The co-founder of Affectiva is Rosalind Picard. She is a Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is credited with starting the affective computing branch of science and is also a co-founder of Empatica. Her work has led to more research into autism and to the development of devices that can help recognize changes in human emotion. Picard has received many awards in recognition of her work.


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