Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cambridge Using Cellphones to Track Happiness

From Fast Company.
Here's some more tech news:  Cambridge University is studying happiness through cellphones. They're using a special technology called Emotionsense in modified Nokia phones to track people's daily activities. The technology compares user voice samples with those in a database called the "Emotional Prosody Speech and Transcripts Library," which gives the researchers data on the volunteers' moment-by-moment happiness. The phones also correlate the mood data with GPS data, to find out where people are the happiest.

This all sounds like a rather mechanical way to measure human emotion, but it actually represents an advancement. Previously, researchers would have to interrupt test subjects to get them to note their internal state of being. These interruptions could affect the data, but Emotionsense gets results without interruptions.

Dr. Cecilia Mascolo, leader of the research, has this to say:
"What we are trying to produce is a completely non-intrusive means of achieving that which also respects privacy. In time, it could have an enormous impact on the way in which we study human behaviour and give psychologists a deeper insight into what it is that makes different types of people tick."
For now, the actual results of the study aren't surprising:  test subjects were happiest at home, and more tense or sad at work. Hopefully the study will produce more interesting results if it continues, but the real story is the technology.

What do YOU think of this stuff? Is Emotionsense too much of an invasion of privacy? It's only been used on volunteers so far, but as they say, the genie can't go back in the bottle, and it's easy to imagine advertisers or other undesirables abusing the technology.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a good idea and I believe it can give the researches a lot of useful info, but it's also a little creepy since it's basically like someone's not just listening to your private conversations but tries to read your mind through your emotions... Hummmm