I read this Boing Boing article “Device Tells you if you are Boring” on April 1st and thought for sure it was an April Fool’s Joke. Apparently researchers have developed a computer system that will help those of us lacking in Social Awareness or the ability to read others. The computer uses cameras and software to analyze facial reactions and determine basic emotions as well as agreement, disagreement, disinterest or outright boredom.
The computer and software were developed by researcher Rana El Kaliouby of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. El Kaliouby developed the tools for autistic individuals who, it seems, lack the social awareness ability to properly assess others and determine their emotions. Would autistic individuals would make good project managers or ambassadors to the United Nations?
Check out this description of the system from the article in NewScientist.com:
“Her program is based on a machine-learning algorithm that she trained by showing it more than 100 8-second video clips of actors expressing particular emotions. The software picks out movements of the eyebrows, lips and nose, and tracks head movements such as tilting, nodding and shaking, which it then associates with the emotion the actor was showing. When presented with fresh video clips, the software gets people’s emotions right 90 per cent of the time when the clips are of actors, and 64 per cent of the time on footage of ordinary people.”
So I guess this device will work best when your project team is composed of actors vs. ordinary people. The idea of technology assisting with Social Awareness relates directly to my recent post on Social Awareness and our need to read emotions on the faces of others. In that post, I talked about the face being the window to the emotional soul. Well, here is a computer and software which can help you to do look through that window.
I was giving some thought to what such a device would look like and realized that I probably have all the necessary spare parts lying around the house to build one. Sure enough, in the last hour few hours I was able to put together the following working prototype of the device.
I wore it around the house to test it on my family. Unfortunately, I am not sure it works because the looks I got from my family were limited to surprise and disgust.