Rosalind W. Picard

Affective Computing
  • Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
  • Co-Director, Advancing Wellbeing Initiative
  • Faculty Chair, MIT Mind+Hand+Heart

Rosalind W. Picard is a scientist and engineer, member of the faculty of MIT's Media Lab,  founder and director of the Affective Computing research group at the MIT Media Lab, founding faculty chair of MIT's MindHandHeart Initiative, and a faculty member of the MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering. She has co-founded two companies:  Affectiva, providing emotion AI technologies now used by more than 25% of the Global Fortune 500, and Empatica, providing wearable sensors and analytics to improve health. Starting from inventions by Picard and her team, Empatica created the first AI-based smart watch cleared by FDA (in Neurology for monitoring seizures), which is now helping alert to bring potentially life-saving help for people with epilepsy. 

Picard holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering with highest honors from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and master's and doctorate degrees, both in electrical engineering and computer science, from MIT.  Prior to joining the MIT Media Lab faculty in 1991, she was a member of the technical staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories, where she designed VLSI chips optimized for signal processing and developed new image compression techniques.

Picard's early research at MIT created new mathematical models that helped achieve the first content-based retrieval of digital images; her work also pioneered methods of automated search and annotation in digital video, including the creation of the Photobook system.  As she studied human mechanisms of perception,  she became convinced of the importance of emotion for making artificial intelligence (AI) that would be both smarter and better at interacting with people; she subsequently wrote the book Affective Computing, which became instrumental in starting a new field by that name. Today that field has its own journal, international conference, and professional society. Picard also served as a founding member of the IEEE Technical Committee on Wearable Information Systems in 1998, helping launch the field of wearable computing.

Picard is an active inventor with patents including wearable and non-contact sensors, algorithms, and systems for sensing, recognizing, and responding respectfully to human affective information. Her inventions have applications in autism, epilepsy, depression, PTSD, sleep, stress, dementia, autonomic nervous system disorders, human and machine learning, health behavior change, market research, customer service, and human-computer interaction, and are in use by thousands of research teams  worldwide as well as in many products and services.

Picard has authored or co-authored more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific articles spanning affective computing, artificial intelligence, digital health - especially for psychiatry and neurology, human-computer interaction, machine learning and pattern analysis, and wearable sensors.  She is a recipient of several “best paper” prizes encompassing work on machine learning with multiple models (with Minka, Pattern Recognition 1998), a best theory paper prize for affect in human learning (with Kort and Reilly, ICALT 2001), a best  paper prize for work with facial expressions (with McDuff, Kaliouby, and Demirdjian, Face&Gesture 2013), a best paper for an automated AI conversation coach (with Hoque et al, UBICOMP 2013) and a best paper for machine learning in health (with Jaques, Taylor, Nosakhare, Sano, NIPS ML for healthcare 2016).  Picard's paper (with Healey, IEEE Trans. on ITS 2005) measuring stress in Boston drivers was recognized as the journal's "best paper of the decade 2000-2009." 

 In 2005, she was named a Fellow of the IEEE for contributions to image and video analysis and affective computing. In 2015, CNN named her one of seven "Tech Superheroes to Watch."  In 2019 she was named a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Affective Computing.  Picard has been honored with dozens of distinguished and named lectureships and other international awards. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest professional honors accorded an engineer, recognizing her contributions to "affective computing and wearable computing."  She is a popular speaker with national and international audiences,  has given over 150 invited keynote talks, and  delivered a TEDx talk viewed by nearly 2 million.

Picard has served on numerous international and national science and engineering program committees, editorial boards, and review panels. She serves on the board of advisors for Scientific American and is an advisor for the new ACM Transactions on Computing for Healthcare.  Past service also includes the Advisory Committee for the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) division of Computers in Science and Engineering (CISE), the Advisory Board for the Georgia Tech College of Computing, and the Editorial Boards of User Modeling and User-Adapted Interaction: The Journal of Personalization Research and of the IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence.

Picard interacts regularly with industry and has consulted for companies such as Apple, AT&T, BT, HP, iRobot, Merck, Motorola, and Samsung. She and her MIT Media Lab group's achievements have been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times, The Independent, National Public Radio, Scientific American Frontiers, ABC's Nightline and World News Tonight, TIME, Vogue, Wired, Forbes, Voice of America Radio, New Scientist, and BBC programs such as Hard Talk and Horizon