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Issue 17 - Jan 2006

Maths Behind Emotions

shocked computer user At the CeBIT 2006 Computer trade show boffins will be unveiling techniques that could one day enable Computers to read and react to the emotions and mood of their human users.

According to studies, computer users not only love and cherish their machines, but very often maltreat them. Researchers have found that aggression toward the PC is a very common problem. Users who find themselves frustrated by their machines performance often result to hitting or kicking the computer, which can of course cause irreparable damage.

Experts believe that much of this anger and violent reacting could be avoided if computers could sense and respond to their users emotions and thus make their whole time using the machine a much more relaxed one. If the user is relaxed and comfortable they maintain that he or she will make much fewer errors and become frustrated and angry far less as a result.

In research, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD in Rostock , Germany asked: How can the computer possibly sense its human operator's frame of mind?

Emotions are given away by peripheral physiological processes. Some of these processes, such as posture, fidgeting or frowning, are easy to detect and can be observed and classified by a camera with image analysis software. Heartbeat and breathing rate, blood pressure, skin temperature and electrical resistance of the skin, on the other hand, are rather more difficult factors to detect.
Christian Peter, engineer at the department for Human-Centered Interaction Technologies states"We have developed a glove that has sensors for measuring parameters like these." "It is connected to a device that evaluates and saves the data. We are also working on techniques that will enable computers to interpret facial expressions and extract emotional elements from voice signals."

Interpreting all this data is of course very difficult too, since emotions are by their very nature ambiguous and hard to describe. The method only works if the user trains the computer in advance - but the IGD researchers have succeeded in doing even this. Visitors of CeBIT can find out how in Hall 9. The world's biggest computer exhibition will be held in Hanover on March 9 to 15, 2006.


Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD website news item.

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The Maths Of Emotions

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