The Technologies That Read Your Facial Expressions

An interesting, if somewhat disconcerting, overview of the rising technologies/algorithms that can interpret the emotions on your face:

Ever since Darwin, scientists have systematically analyzed facial expressions, finding that many of them are universal. Humans are remarkably consistent in the way their noses wrinkle, say, or their eyebrows move as they experience certain emotions. People can be trained to note tiny changes in facial muscles, learning to distinguish common expressions by studying photographs and video. Now computers can be programmed to make those distinctions, too.

Companies in this field include Affectiva, based in Waltham, Mass., andEmotient, based in San Diego. Affectiva used webcams over two and a half years to accumulate and classify about 1.5 billion emotional reactions from people who gave permission to be recorded as they watched streaming video, said Rana el-Kaliouby, the company’s co-founder and chief science officer. These recordings served as a database to create the company’s face-reading software, which it will offer to mobile software developers starting in mid-January.

Face-reading technology may one day be paired with programs that have complementary ways of recognizing emotion, such as software that analyzes people’s voices, said Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster. If computers reach the point where they can combine facial coding, voice sensing, gesture tracking and gaze tracking, he said, a less stilted way of interacting with machines will ensue.

One book I recommend that is related to this topic is by Joe Navarro, an ex-FBI agent, titled What Every Body is Saying (a guide to speed-reading people, including when they are telling a lie, etc.).

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