Data Mining Computers Detect Your Emotions

Emotient Inc., Affectiva Inc., and Eyeris? Even if you haven't heard of these companies, your emotions are no stranger to them. The intent is to create computer systems that can predict reactions and behavior from human subjects.


(Click to see very nice interactive display of emotions
Key Moments:
1- Decrease in smile drives valence down.
2- The most expressive smile.
3- Furrowed brow indicates confusion.
4- Slightly raised eyebrows indicate surprise.)

To train its software’s algorithm, Emotient has recorded the facial reactions of an ethnically diverse group of hundreds of thousands people participating in marketing research for its clients via video chat. The software extracts at least 90,000 data points from each frame, everything from abstract patterns of light to tiny muscular movements, which are sorted by emotional categories, such as anger, disgust, joy, surprise or boredom.

Rival Affectiva says it has measured seven billion emotional reactions from 2.4 million face videos in 80 countries. The company says the sheer scope of its data has allowed it to draw conclusions about people across cultures and in different settings. For instance, it says it has learned that women smile more than men, and that Indonesians and South Africans are the world’s least and most expressive people, respectively.

Science fiction authors have been helping us think about computers and robots and emotions for generations. In his 1938 short story Helen O'Loy, Golden Age master Lester del Rey writes about robot emotions.

"...[the robot] has sense enough, but she has no emotions, no consciousness of self."

"All right, that's the big trouble with the mechs now. But we'll get around it, put in some mechanical emotions, or something..."

In his 1954 story Compassion Circuit, John Wyndham writes about robots able to show compassion:

...what I'd really recommend for her is the type they have here. It's something pretty new, this Nurse James model. A specially developed high sensibility job with a quite novel contra-balanced compassion-protection circuit. A very tricky bit of work, that.

Finally, the HAL-9000 system from the 1968 novel and film 2001: A Space Odyssey was able to detect the stress in voice samples. Here is the exchange between Dave Bowman and the HAL-9000, as described in Arthur C. Clarke's novel:


(HAL-9000)

"Hal, switch to manual hibernation control."

"I can tell from your voice harmonics, Dave, that you're badly upset. Why don't you take a stress pill and get some rest?"

"Hal, I am in command of this ship. I order you to release the manual hibernation control."

"I'm sorry, Dave, but in accordance with special subroutine C1435-dash-4, quote, When the crew are dead or incapacitated, the onboard computer must assume control, unquote. I must, therefore, overrule your authority, since you are not in any condition to exercise it intelligently."

"Hal," said Bowman, now speaking with an icy calm. "I am not incapacitated. Unless you obey my instructions, I shall be forced to disconnect you." (Read more about HAL-9000.)

From WSJ.

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