Computer Science student wins a poster competition with her insight into emotion AI

[2021] Purvi Harwani, first year Computer Science student won the first year student poster contest at the annual BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium for her poster "Hey Siri, I don’t feel too good!"

Photo of a young black haired woman wearing glasses and smiling
Purvi Harwani

Purvi’s winning poster concerns  emotion AI (also known as affective computing), the ability of the machine to read emotional cues in our voice and respond accordingly, in other words teaching AI to be empathetic. This feature becomes increasingly important as it has the potential to offer a virtual companion to those who struggle. Isolation in the Covid-19 crisis makes emotionally intelligent voice interface a support mechanism for all of us that shouldn’t be overlooked. Purvi explains: human’s presence is irreplaceable but empathy from a digital companion may resolve less serious mental welfare concerns. Embracing this technology and its potential puts us in a much better position to handle another crisis or pandemic.

'Hey Siri, I don't feel too good!' - Purvi's poster presentation

However, as Purvi observes, there are privacy and ethical concerns around emotion AI: legal regulations around confidentiality of information confided to such devices need to be tightened. Moreover, research has shown that affective computing applications can have racial biases.

Winning to me is whole-heartedly pushing myself beyond my comfort zone on every given occasion. Some days I learn, other days I soar. During BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium, I wanted to unite people to believe in an idea that will hopefully revolutionise the world. Receiving an accolade just meant I successfully accomplished my goal.

Purvi Harwani
first year Computer Science student, School of Informatics

The BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium is a free, one day conference for women undergraduates and taught masters students. 2021 was their 14th event and it was online, hosted by Lancaster University on Tuesday, March 30th. Tutors are encouraged to sign up for their announcement and encourage their tutees to participate in future colloquia.

To encourage students to submit posters abstract to the Colloquium call, the School of Informatics offered to make a donation for every submission to our chosen charity: the Turing Trust. Founded by Alan Turing’s family, The Turing Trust works on refurbishing IT equipment to provide it to those who need it most (that includes over 55,000 students across Africa).

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