Saturday, May 13, 2006

Computers Can Read Us Like Books

Can A Computer Read You Like A Book?

We've all heard the phrase before: It's not what you say, it's how you say it. Several years ago, Alex Pentland, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, decided to find out whether or not this piece of conventional wisdom is true.

After studying the psychological literature, Pentland began to develop several simple computer-based systems to measure what scientists call "social signaling"--nonlinguistic behavior such as vocal intonation, facial movement and gesturing--during a conversation. He settled on four basic markers, which he designated activity, engagement, stress and mirroring.


In most scenarios, the predictions that Pentland and his colleagues were able to make turned out to be shockingly accurate. Using nothing but these simple, nonlinguistic clues--and analyzing conversations that lasted between five minutes and just over an hour, depending on the experiment--the researchers were able to calculate the likelihood of a given outcome with an average accuracy rate of almost 90%.

This is lots of fun. I've been hearing talk for years now about computers responding to our emotions in order to provide a more userfriendly experience.

It seems that day is drawing closer and closer.

The interesting thing about this is that the software program only needed little information. It seems evident that computers will read us perfectly if they were to receive lots more info to judge us by, such as facial expressions and body language.

Food for thought...

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