Friday, March 31, 2006


I'm sitting in a meeting right now, and just got this in an ACM TechNews e-mail. I found the coincidence amusing.

Device Warns You if You're Boring or Irritating
New Scientist (03/29/06); Biever, Celeste

Researchers are scheduled to present a device that will inform people with autism that they are boring or annoying the person they are talking to at next week's Body Sensor Network conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The "emotional social intelligence prosthetic" device is an improvement from previous computer programs that detect the basic emotional states of happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust because it focuses on the more complex states of agreement, disagreement, concentration, thinking, uncertainty, and interest, which appear more frequently in conversation. Built by Rana El Kaliouby of MIT's Media Lab, colleagues Rosalind Picard and Alea Teeters, with Peter Robinson of the University of Cambridge, the device consists of a camera (small enough to be attached to eyeglasses) connected to a handheld computer that uses image recognition software, and software that can read the emotions of the images. The software makes the handheld vibrate when its wearer does not engage the listener. The device, which gets emotions right 64 percent and 90 percent of the time when presented with video footage of ordinary people and actors, respectively, is based on a machine-learning algorithm that was trained by showing it more than 100 eight-second video clips of actors expressing different emotions. The researchers say they still need to reduce the device's computing demand for a standard handheld, find a high-resolution digital camera that is easy to wear, and train autistic people to use it. In addition to autistic people, teachers could benefit from the device.

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