Intel AI detects students’ emotions in Zoom calls, despite widespread pushback

PC hardware company Intel has developed a new AI that can detect the emotions of people in real-time. In its current form, the technology has been pitched as a way to monitor the emotions of students in a remote Zoom call.

How Intel AI monitors emotions

Reported by Protocol, Intel is partnering with school software company Class to increase the monitoring of students in Zoom calls. The technology is pitched as a way to get feedback on students without having to discuss situations with the students themselves.

The AI software is based on reviewed footage of students in remote calls and labelled individual motions and expressions. These labels were then used to build a dataset that could fuel Intel’s algorithms. Afterwards, the algorithms can be used real-time label children during calls.

Intel claims that the AI tool can be used to detect a wide range of emotions. If a student is bored, distracted, angry, confused or upset, the tool will be able to flag those emotions to a teacher. After a call, that teacher is expected to follow up with a student and help them with their emotions.

Research scientist at Intel, Sinem Aslan, said the company is “trying to enable one-on-one tutoring at scale.” This is because "high levels of boredom will lead [students to] completely zone out of educational content.”

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A controversial technology

The Intel emotion AI has already kicked up a massive dust wave of controversy from teachers and academics. For the most part, the use of artificial intelligence being used to read emotions is seen as a massive breach of privacy. Additionally, when children are concerned, it could make students mistrust their teachers.

Additionally, many believe that the use of AI to read emotions may not be as accurate as its creators believe. For example, just because a student looks angry in class, that doesn't mean the student is actually angry. Emotions can be far more complex than an AI may be able to detect at this point in time.

“Students have different ways of presenting what’s going on inside of them,” Todd Richmond, educator and director at the Pardee RAND Graduate School told Protocol. “That student being distracted at that moment in time may be the appropriate and necessary state for them in that moment in their life.”

Of course, there is also an opportunity for this tech to help students who feel like they can't discuss their feelings. However, that opportunity comes at the cost of invading privacy.

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