Rosalind Picard, M.I.T. and Empatica

Rosalind (Roz) Picard is a Professor in the Media Lab at M.I.T. and has a long history of developing technologies to help society. Her career started at Bell Laboratories before she joined the faculty at M.I.T. in 1991. Roz developed the computing field called Affective Computing and cofounded the company Affectiva, Inc., that provides emotion Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. Additionally, through her work at M.I.T., Roz has co-founded the spin-off Empatica, which creates offering continuous, passive, and unobtrusive monitoring for patients with neurological conditions. 

They build software and algorithms to advance understanding of human behavior through wearable sensors. Their technology empowers thousands of patients, clinicians, and researchers with real-time human insight, driven by physiological and behavioral biomarkers. Empatica created the first AI-based smart watch, Embrace, to be approved by FDA in Neurology. 

In this interview, Roz discusses her passion for the development of wearable devices and how she inadvertently determined that the wearable device she was developing actually detected a tonic-clonic seizure. At the time she thought that the device may have broken, but later investigation showed that it had indeed identified a seizure.  

With this technology, people with epilepsy can have their seizure activity monitored. An alert is sent to a caregiver when a seizure is occurring so that they can provide help. This advance  has given many people with epilepsy new freedom to live a fuller life. For example, the watch can inform a parent that their child is having a seizure and can even lead to intervention that can prevent SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death from EPilepsy). 

In addition to being used in epilepsy monitoring, there is even the potential to provide biofeedback to inform someone that they might be getting sick, and in the current covid era, might be used to stimulate someone to go for a covid-19 test, and stop them from going to visit an at risk relative.  

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