She started her career as a member of the technical staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories designing VLSI chips for digital signal processing and developing new algorithms for image compression. In 1991 she joined the MIT Media Lab faculty. She became internationally known for constructing mathematical models for content-based retrieval of images and for pioneering methods of automated search and annotation in digital video, including the creation of the Photobook system. The year before she was up for tenure she published the book Affective Computing, which became instrumental in starting a new field by that name. Today that field has its own journal, international conference, and professional society. Picard also served as a founding member of the IEEE Technical Committee on Wearable Information Systems in 1998, helping launch the field of wearable computing. In 2019, Picard was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for contributions in affective and wearable computing.