Advertisement Close

Arab Americans

Rana El Kaliouby

Rana El Kaliouby

Rana El-Kaliouby, Ph.D (born 1978) is a contributor to facial expression recognition research and technology development, which is a subset of facial recognition designed to identify the emotion being expressed by the face. El-Kaliouby’s research endeavoured to depart from the field’s dependence on exaggerated caricature expressions created by actors in the laboratory, in favour of focusing on more subtle glances that people make in real situations.

El-Kaliouby is currently the chief science officer of Affectiva, leading the company’s Emotion Science team. Her team applies computer vision, machine learning and data science to leverage the company’s facial emotion repository, which it says is the world’s largest with 2 million faces, to understand people’s feelings and behaviors.

El Kaliouby earned her Bachelors and Master of Science degree from the American University in Cairo. Then she earned her Ph.D at Newnham College of the University of Cambridge.

El-Kaliouby worked as a research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, helping to found their Autism & Communication Technology Initiative. Her original goal was to improve human-computer interaction, but she quickly became fascinated with the possibility of applying this technology to improve human-human communication, especially for sufferers of autism, many of whom struggle with emotional communication. At the Affective Computing group of MIT Media Lab, she was part of a team that pioneered development of the “emotional hearing aid”, a set of emotion-reading wearable glasses which the New York Times included in their Top 100 innovations of 2006.


  • 7 Women to Watch in 2014 – Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Mass High Tech Top 20 Women to Watch 2014
  • The Wired Smart List – Wired 2013
  • MIT TR35 2012

Other articles that have reported on Rana El-Kaliouby’s career and invention:

  • When algorithms grow accustomed to your face | Nov. 2013 – New York Times.
  • 25 Most Audacious Companies | April 2013 – Inc.
  • The New Face of AdTech Goes Consumer | Aug 2012 – TechCrunch.
  • Does Your Phone Know How Happy You Are? | June 2012 – Fast Company.

Rana El-Kaliouby was inducted into the “Women in Engineering” Hall of Fame. She is also a member of ACM, IEEE, Association of Children’s Museums, British Machine Vision Association, and Nahdet el Mahrousa.

Rana El-Kaliouby says that computers, while good with information, fall short when it comes to determining feelings, thus requiring manual prompting to respond to an operator’s needs. Her interest primarily lies in the subtle facial changes that people tend to make. She has identified 24 landmarks to the face, each moving in different ways depending on an expressed emotion.

This has many applications, from linguistics to video production. Autism patients, who typically have a different array of expressions that are apart from the norm, may be able to have their moods more easily monitored by parents or caretakers. For production purposes, computer generated imagery of faces (and presumably android projects) will be able to be more realistic in the art of subtlety.

Source: Wikipedia