If you’re like me and struggle to determine when a conversation is getting a little awkward, or more specifically when you are getting a little awkward, then you’re in luck. Soon your smart watch might be able to help you out with that. The smart people at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been developing technology that is designed to help you out in your communication a little further. And also perhaps turn you into a superhero who reads others emotions.
The idea behind the technology, as reported by FastCompany.com is that it can take input from spoken-word transcripts, sound samples, and data, including a speaker’s electrocardiogram readings and skin temperature measurements, and feeds this into a neural network. The network is trained based on human-labeled speech snippets to use all that information to detect the speakers’ emotional states, which the researchers report it does at a rate 18% better than chance and 7.5% better than previous approaches.
This resulting information, once determined,can then be transmitted to another person and used to tell you what they are feeling. The wearable devices that are used to gather this data will not only gather sound but communicate with the wearer using tactile or haptic feedback (non-visual, so you can maintain that eye contact) to communicate with you what the other person may be feeling.
Below is a brief video showing how the technology works using a person’s speech patterns to determine their emotion during the conversation. For this research, they have made use of a Samsung Simband:
While this technology is still in its infancy, I certainly like the potential for it in every day applications. At the moment it requires the use of biometrics to gathers its feedback, but in the future they are looking to streamline this technology to use only voice patterns to determine this. Either way, it should be compulsory for all couples to wear them so that we can finally know what exactly our partners are feeling. Man, do I need this.
Jokes aside, as much as this technology can be useful in every day communication, it is especially useful got people with syndromes such as Asperger’s, who struggle to perceive human emotion in knowing what is going on. It could also, scarily in future, be used by robots to also detect human emotion and respond accordingly. Marketers could even use this technology to track the emotional responses certain TV ads have on viewers or emotions that people felt when sitting through certain movies/games. The more I think about, the more I can see this being used in some positively creepy way.
It will likely take several years for this technology to find its way into mainstream wearable devices, but when it does it would be interesting to see what other practical applications companies can find for this technology.
What would you do if you could read other people’s emotions?