Computers are great at parsing data using logic, but when it comes to recognizing when you’re feeling angry or despondent, they’re as helpless as your high school boyfriend. Luckily, researchers across the world are working to change that, hoping that if they can teach computers to recognize and understand emotion, they can use that knowledge to educate people who have similar difficulties–such as those on the Autism Spectrum–to do so as well.
The New York Times reports on an emerging technology field called “affective programming,” where researchers are working to teach computers how to recognize and define human emotion. This technology will help computers know when they’re pissing you off (like when your GPS won’t stop angrily yelling at you), but it will also help bring a greater understanding of the complexity of emotions to people both affected and not by disorders like autism.
Some advancements in the field include glasses that notify a person with Aspberger’s when they are boring someone and haven’t picked up on the social cues that signify this; Q sensors, that can sense emotion and express it to outsiders even if the person wearing the sensor cannot; and software that maps 24 points on a face to help teach computers to distinguish between actions like a grimace and a smile.
Of course, there’s a drawback to emotionally intelligent computers: mainly, that knowing how humans feel can always be used against us. Can you imagine the field day data harvesting companies like Facebook would have selling advertisements based on its users emotions?
Writes the Times:
But the idea of emotionally aware devices like these gives many people the creeps.
“We want to have some control over how we display ourselves to others,” said Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford. If computers were taught to read our emotions, “it’s not obvious the world would be a better place.”
We’re sure Ray Kurzweil would beg to differ.