MIT Smile Research Knows Your Real One

MIT's grad students are trying to help computers assess the emotional states of users.


(MIT tests smiles for joy (L) or frustration (R))

“The goal is to help people with face-to-face communication,” says Ehsan Hoque, a graduate student in the Affective Computing Group of MIT’s Media Lab who is lead author of a paper just published in the IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing. Hoque’s co-authors are Rosalind Picard, a professor of media arts and sciences, and Media Lab graduate student Daniel McDuff.

In experiments conducted at the Media Lab, people were first asked to act out expressions of delight or frustration, as webcams recorded their expressions. Then, they were either asked to fill out an online form designed to cause frustration or invited to watch a video designed to elicit a delighted response — also while being recorded.

When asked to feign frustration, Hoque says, 90 percent of subjects did not smile. But when presented with a task that caused genuine frustration — filling out a detailed online form, only to then find the information deleted after pressing the “submit” button — 90 percent of them did smile, he says.

SF fans of course remember the HAL 9000 computer in his 1968 novel 2001: A Space Odyssey:

"Hal, switch to manual hibernation control."

"I can tell from your voice harmonics, Dave, that you're badly upset. Why don't you take a stress pill and get some rest?"

"Hal, I am in command of this ship. I order you to release the manual hibernation control."

"I'm sorry, Dave, but in accordance with special subroutine C1435-dash-4, quote, When the crew are dead or incapacitated, the onboard computer must assume control, unquote. I must, therefore, overrule your authority, since you are not in any condition to exercise it intelligently."

"Hal," said Bowman, now speaking with an icy calm. "I am not incapacitated. Unless you obey my instructions, I shall be forced to disconnect you."

Via MIT.

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