Are You Boring?

A computerized device is in the works that will alert you when the person you’re talking to is getting bored, annoyed or confused. The "emotional social intelligence prosthetic" device, which is being constructed by researchers at MIT, consists of a tiny camera connected to a hand-held computer that contains software to recognize images and the emotions the images show.

The device picks up on people’s emotions, then vibrates if the speaker is not engaging his or her listeners. The software is capable of reading whether someone is agreeing, disagreeing, concentrating, thinking, unsure or interested, simply from scanning a brief section of video.

The emotions detector is primarily being developed to help people with autism relate to those around them, as they often have difficulty picking up on social cues. However, there are clearly other applications, such as for teachers who want to know if their students are engaged, or any public speaker who wants to gauge their audience’s reactions, for that matter.

Is it Accurate?

There’s still more work to be done before the device can become usable. Right now, it gets people’s emotions right 90 percent of the time when it analyzes video clips of actors -- but is right only 64 percent of the time when viewing clips of regular people.

Meanwhile, if you are the parent of a child with autism, please realize that there are skilled physicians out there and wonderful support networks that can help children with autism regain most, if not all, of their functioning. The simple dietary principles that we teach are the foundation for addressing much of the dysfunction that is present.

NewScientist.com March 29, 2006