Professor Pascale creates robot that can respond with empathy

Professor Pascale Fung: Educated at universities on most continents

Professor Pascale Fung is building empathetic robots that can detect human emotions. Her creation, “Zara the Supergirl”, can chat with you in English or Mandarin. Pascale is working at the University of Science and Technology and winning recognition internationally.

“Intelligent systems have evolved to a stage where they are ubiquitous in smartphones and consumer-grade robots,” she said. “Machines need to be able to recognise human intentions and when they are being sarcastic or joking.” Pascale said “empathy modules” will be indispensable for robots of the future that will be carers and companions.

Zara the Supergirl, now performing at the UST, looks at you, figures out your gender and ethnicity, before deciding what language to speak. Then she assesses your character by asking questions about childhood and work experiences. When you speak to her she responds to your facial expressions and voice tones.

Zara’s creator, Professor Pascale, has been educated at universities on most continents. She speaks seven languages. Pascale has co-founded companies that will exploit the technology she and others are developing. She is a member of the faculty of the UST’s Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, studying “statistical natural language processing, spoken language systems, music information retrieval and predictive analytics”.

After all that, for a change of pace, she teaches Zara French.

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