From: The Telegraph
Employers, politicians and shops are expected to adopt technology that can detect facial expressions to read people’s minds, a development that even one of the companies behind it admits “is going to cause some worries for people”.
The company say its technology can be used as a ‘lie detector’, for instance.
The software, a product of years of academic research, is now being commercialised with the potential to further accelerate the changes to business and society brought about by the smartphone revolution.
It was being promoted at the mobile industry’s biggest showcase in Barcelona this week as an ‘intelligent video’ platform by Oovoo, a US company which also offers a video chat app used by more than 120 million smartphone and tablet owners.
Oovoo was demonstrating how smartphones can read facial expressions with Flinch, a game that pits players against each other in what amounts to an online staring contest.
One side loses when a simplified version of the expression-reading software detects a smile.
Political pollsters have already tested the technology in the United States and are expected to use it at large scale in the next presidential election to gauge reaction to speeches and debates.
More complex and potentially troubling applications are in the works, however.
Oovoo said it is already in talks with major global employers who want to use the technology as part of their interview process. Recruiters increasingly conduct interviews over video chat and are planning to gather more data on candidates by measuring how their mouth, eyes and brows move as they answer questions.
JP Nauseef, the managing director of Myrian Capital, the investment company that owns Oovoo, said: “Employers want as much data as possible on their candidates. This is just another source of data for them.”
The technology could also prove useful in financial negotiations, indicating in advance whether a potential customer is likely to walk away from the negotiating table.
Oovoo is also planning to target the retail market with cameras in windows and in store that can measure how individual customers respond to displays and products.
Other companies, such as Cambridge-based Imagination Technologies, are working on ‘smart camera’ systems that would try to gather similar data on shoppers inferring it from their movements. The software Oovoo uses aims to read their minds more directly.
Mr Nauseef said: “There are major implications of this, including privacy, and it is going to cause some worries for people.“But history shows these worries get addressed either by regulation or people just getting used to things.”
The technology behind Oovoo’s intelligent video platform was developed at Cambridge University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Researchers fed a vast catalogue of images of human expressions, originally gathered as part of work on autism, into computers to ‘teach’ software to detect emotions.
The technology was spun off into a company, Affectiva, in which Myrian Capital also has a stake. It initially worked with market research companies to gauge the responses of traditional focus groups to advertising but is now working with Oovoo to massively increase its reach to anyone with a smartphone.
The pair are in talks with advertisers to build an app that would reward users with special offers or loyalty points for showing it they are in a good mood.