August 7, 2014
Dell Predicts Mood Reading Technology Will Soon Be Here
Eric Hopton for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Whether you are happy, sad, frustrated, angry, or excited, your computer could soon be checking out your emotional state as you use it for work or play.Jai Menon, head of Dell’s research and development department, recently told BBC News that mood-reading applications could be with us in less than 3 years.
Dell Research already has the hardware available in the form of existing “brain activity” headsets made by NeuroSky and other companies. Now it is working on software that it claims will eventually be able to read a user’s mood accurately enough to allow commercially viable applications. Brain monitoring technology in the form of brain-computer interfaces (BCI) is nothing new and is commonly used in helping disabled people control equipment such as wheelchairs and computers, but is currently very costly. NeuroSky recently unveiled an EEG “biosensor” which enabled Google Glass wearers to capture photos and videos and even post them using only brain activity.
Menon believes, according to BBC's Leo Kelion, that the new technology may be able to enhance a user’s overall experience in several innovative ways. If, for instance, the software senses that the user is concentrating and working hard at a particular task “an intuitive computer system might then reduce distractions” by directing incoming calls straight to voicemail and preventing unwanted disturbances. It could also monitor work levels and suggest a bit of down time when necessary. Mood monitoring could lead to improved interaction between employers and workers, teachers and students, or even drivers and their vehicles. “There’s a lot of potential in daily use” Menon said according to Matt Hamblen of Computer World.
The potential for mood-reading systems to boost gaming experience is clear. Dell is already aiming its high-spec Alienware directly at the games devotee. Mood-reading would respond to the gamer’s emotions by adjusting difficulty levels, offering clues, or adapting the game to capitalize on the current mood.
Dell admits that at present the research is still very much in the early stages and that the accuracy of the new software is only around 50 percent. Menon is confident that the figure can be significantly improved to 90 percent or above. This may, however, require the use of additional external inputs like ECG and blood oxygen level monitoring. This could make the physical experience of wearing the required hardware less attractive.
Many experts are skeptical about both the technology itself and how it might be viewed by users. It is likely that a lot of people, though they might welcome “voluntary” use of mood-reading in games for example, would resent having constant and potentially intrusive monitoring of their moods by employers. This could be a mixed blessing. Companies would obviously want to deploy the technology to raise productivity but equally it could also be a means of assessing and improving job satisfaction.
This is ambitious research and it seems it is just part of Dell’s ongoing search for a new generation of products which includes work on better security, data insights, the Internet of Things as well as improved voice recognition and gesture detection technology. Hamblen quoted Menon as saying, "Whatever we learn, we'll apply to our products." In such a competitive field Dell is trying to at least keep up with the game if not stay ahead of it.