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Affectiva acquired by Swedish firm to create automotive AI powerhouse

Rana el Kaliouby, the chief executive of Boston's Affectiva, and Martin Krantz, the chief executive of Smart Eye.Courtesy of Affectiva

Affectiva, a Boston company whose technology can sense human emotions through artificial intelligence, announced Tuesday that it will be acquired for $73.5 million by Smart Eye, a publicly traded firm based in Sweden.

Founded in 2009 and spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Affectiva has developed “emotion recognition technology,” or software that tries to detect and understand human emotions. The company has used its technology to work with advertisers who want to measure emotional responses to TV commercials and movies, as well as to analyze the facial expressions of drivers behind the wheel, to detect mental states such as anger, distraction, or fatigue.


Smart Eye, founded in 1999, analyzes eye, facial, and head movements to sense and predict a driver’s awareness on the road, so Martin Krantz, the founder and chief executive of the company, said it made sense for the two firms to join forces. The companies are both working on “in-cabin sensing,” meaning technology that tracks what happens inside a vehicle, and Krantz said his team “quickly recognized Affectiva as a major player to watch.”

“Affectiva’s pioneering work in establishing the field of Emotion AI has served as a powerful platform for bringing this technology to market at scale,” he said in a statement. “At the end of the day, this is about saving lives and bridging the gap between humans and machines.”

The transaction, paid mostly in Smart Eye stock, is expected to close by the end of June. Affectiva has 100 employees, and Smart Eye has 140. A spokesperson for Affectiva said all of its employees, including cofounder and chief executive Rana el Kaliouby, will join the Smart Eye team. Smart Eye said it will keep Affectiva’s office in Boston to maintain a “footprint within the vibrant technology innovation ecosystem on the US East Coast.”


The acquisition comes on the heels of a nearly $20 billion deal by Microsoft to acquire Nuance Communications, a leader in speech-based artificial intelligence technology, last month.

Anissa Gardizy can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8 and on Instagram @anissagardizy.journalism.