May 13, 2013
New Android App Uses Your Smartphone To Track Your Mood
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
In the 1970s, people used mood rings to determine their disposition. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have now developed an Android app which can replace the mood ring by constantly measuring data relating to the user´s mood. This data can then be stored and used later for psychological therapy or other treatments.The free app is called “Emotion Sense” and essentially monitors your behavior throughout the day using incoming calls and texts as well as social media posts to determine your mood. The app also asks you to map your emotions on a grid and then asks a series of questions to get a better picture of your mood.
Research associate Dr. Neal Lathia developed the app, saying the number of sensors packed into every smartphone can be used to determine a person´s fluctuating state of mind.
“Behind the scenes, smartphones are constantly collecting data that can turn them into a key medical and psychological tool,” said Lathia.
“Any smartphone now comes with numerous sensors that can tell you about aspects of your life, like how active you are, or how sociable you have been in the past 24 hours. In the long term, we hope to be able to extract that data so that, for example, it can be used for therapeutic purposes.”
Using these sensors — which include the accelerometer, GPS and even microphone — the app can create a map of data detailing the user´s entire day. When combined with self-reports given by the user, Emotion Sense can create a “journey of discovery” for the user, allowing he or she to get a better understanding of the emotional peaks and troughs of their lives.
Earlier research into smartphone mood trackers looked to use the microphone to capture a user´s voice, then analyze it to determine mood. Emotion Sense aims to use more of these sensors to paint a fuller picture.
When a user first opens the app, only one sensor is “unlocked” and used to determine mood. After a week or so of using this sensor and measuring it against the user surveys, another sensor is activated. This process goes on until each sensor is activated nearly eight weeks later.
Emotion Sense uses the microphone, for instance, to measure the volume of the room. Once a day, the app sends a notification to the user, asking them to map their mood on an emotion grid. Users can even configure the app to ask for their mood twice a day.
The user can pinpoint their mood on a grid of two axes, one which ranges from “negative” to “positive” emotions, and another ranging from “active” to “inactive” behavior. Once the user is done mapping their mood, the app then takes another brief survey. According to the University of Cambridge, the entire process only takes two minutes.
Though the app does collect some highly sensitive information — including sound from the users´ surroundings and SMS data — the researchers claim they only collect the key parts which are important to the apps functionality and store it on secure University servers.
Early reviews for Emotion Sense at the time of this writing are fair to middling, with 114 users giving it an average of 3.1 stars in the Google Play store. Some reviewers praise the idea of a mood tracking app but claim the “always on” nature of the app has a negative effect on their battery life.
Emotion Sense is available now for free in the Google Play app store.