Wireless Thoughts, Emotions, and Mind Control: Now Everyone's "Big Business"?
Compiled by Betsy Kraus
Information provided by other astute researchers:
Detecting emotions with wireless signals
Adam Conner-Simons | Rachel Gordon | CSAIL
MIT News | Sept. 20, 2016
Excerpt: Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed “EQ-Radio,” a device that can detect a person’s emotions using wireless signals.By measuring subtle changes in breathing and heart rhythms, EQ-Radio is 87 percent accurate at detecting if a person is excited, happy, angry or sad — and can do so without on-body sensors.
Affectiva raises $14 million to bring apps, robots emotional intelligence
TechCrunch | Posted May 25, 2016 by Lora Colony
Excerpt: According to co-founder Rana el Kaliouby, the Waltham, Mass.-based company wants its technology to become the de facto means of adding emotional intelligence and empathy to any interactive product, and the best way for organizations to attain unvarnished insights about customers, patients or constituents.
Computers That Know How You Feel Will Soon Be Everywhere
Jessi Hempel | Wired | Apr. 22, 2015
Excerpt: But for all of Affectiva’s potential, it will take more than creative developers to help its technology catch on more broadly. “The hidden discussion that hasn’t been brought up is trust,” says Charlene Li, CEO of the research outfit Altimeter Group, who has followed Affectiva closely since 2011. “I love the product, but I’m also terrified by it,” she says. She points out that should this data fall into the wrong hands, it could be dangerous for consumers. What happens, for example, if you are often sad while using a piece of Affectiva-embedded software and the software’s developer chooses to sell that information to a pharmaceutical company?
More on Affectiva: https://venturefizz.com/blog/digitizing-emotion-mit-startup-affectiva-delivers-new-level-analytics-and-real-time-interaction
WE KNOW HOW YOU FEEL
Computers are learning to read emotion, and the business world can’t wait.
By Raffi Khatchadourian | The New Yorker | Jan. 19, 2015
Excerpt: . . . since the nineteen-nineties a small number of researchers have been working to give computers the capacity to read our feelings and react, in ways that have come to seem startlingly human. Experts on the voice have trained computers to identify deep patterns in vocal pitch, rhythm, and intensity; their software can scan a conversation between a woman and a child and determine if the woman is a mother, whether she is looking the child in the eye, whether she is angry or frustrated or joyful. Other machines can measure sentiment by assessing the arrangement of our words, or by reading our gestures. Still others can do so from facial expressions.
Beyond Verbal takes on emotions analytics in call centers and beyond
by Lauren Horowitz Executive Editor, Business Applications and Architecture
An emotions analytics vendor says it can diagnose human emotions and identify a speaker's complex emotional state in settings like call centers.
THE SMART PHONE: Identifying your Emotions
Beyond Verbal Introduces The Empath App, Identifying And Tracking Emotional Wellbeing Via Smartphones
Jan 06, 2015, 06:00 ET from Beyond Verbal
Excerpt: . . . It's not what you say, but how you say it: With Beyond Verbal's new Empath app, phones can now track personal emotional wellness. Based on the company's recently launched Wellness API, Empath empowers a smartphone to measure emotions and moods. When a user speaks into a phone, regardless of language, Empath identifies how they felt during an activity, or according to the specific time and day, and then tracks, logs and charts their emotions. . . .
The Mercury News
08/29/2016 - Page C12
Chinese children gain an edge with VR classrooms
By David Ramli
Deep within a building shaped like the Starship Enterprise, a little-known Chinese company is working on the future of education. Vast banks of servers record children at work and play, tracking touch-screen swipes, shrugs and head swivels — amassing a database that will be used to build intimate profiles of millions of kids.
This is the Fuzhou, China, hive of NetDragon Websoft, a hack-and-slash video game maker and unlikely candidate to transform learning via headset-mounted virtual reality teachers. It’s one of a growing number of companies, from IBM to Lenovo, studying how to use technology like VR to arrest a fickle child’s attention. (And perhaps someday to make a mint from that data by showing them ads.) China — where parents have been known to try anything to give their kids an edge and tend to be less obsessive about privacy — may be an ideal
testing ground for the VR classroom of the future. As it’s envisioned, there’ll be no napping in the back row. Lessons change when software predicts a student’s mind is wandering by spotting an upward tilt of the head. Dull lectures can be immediately livened up with pop quizzes. Even the instructor’s gender can change to suit the audience, such as making the virtual educator male in cultures where teachers are typically men.
"It is the next big thing, and it’s been brewing for quite some time," said Jan-Martin Lowendahl, a research vice president with tech advisory firm Gartner. “If there’s any place it would work, it’s China, Korea, those kinds of places.
“It’s hugely revolutionary and it’s also necessary, because it’s obvious that the current educational models do not scale."
The notion of adaptive, computer-based teaching has bounced around for more than a decade. Done right, it’s got the potential to fundamentally alter learning. Educators who’ve relied on their gut and visual cues could be replaced or augmented by digital avatars powered by algorithms, which can in turn be replicated across the planet. Advocates argue that the benefits of using machines to scrutinize children and learning to adapt to their foibles will outweigh questions of privacy because soon there won’t be enough human teachers.
"There’s no way we can deal with it without adding scalable learning technologies," Lowendahl said.
Of course, the growing corporate involvement isn’t altruistic — there’s money to be made, and by some accounts Chinese companies are taking the lead in commercialization. NetDragon wants to become among the first to put it in practice on a larger scale. It paid 77 million pounds ($100 million) for British online education provider Promethean World last year and now serves 2.2 million teachers with 40 million pupils. It’s field-testing VR lessons, handing out headsets and tablets in Chinese schools and encouraging teachers to try out tailored curricula on their kids.
Researchers then track pupils’ activity within the VR environment; as a complement to that, tablets come with cameras that can be used to visually monitor students.
"Not only do we want to track it when they’re in the classroom, we want to track it when they’re on the go, when they’re mobile or when they’re at home so we can have a 360view of how kids learn," NetDragon vice chairman and former Microsoft executive Simon Leung said, adding that the technology might be ready by 2017. "Once we can monitor their likes and dislikes, for example, you can recommend different services to them, very targeted advertising to them."
All the companies interviewed emphasized that data would only be collected with the explicit permission of legal guardians. But it remains unclear how parents will take to having computers interpret their child’s every move. And each school will need to be sold on the benefits of a technology that could eventually supplant them.
Taking a step further into the realm of science fiction, a person’s behavior in digital environments offers clues as to their ability to learn, their creativity and even afflictions like Alzheimer’s disease, said Andrea Stevenson Won, an associate professor who studies humans in virtual reality environments at Cornell University.
"I really don’t, as a citizen, love the idea of someone being able to track aspects of my behavior and make predictions about a medical condition I might have, and also be able to advertise directly to me," she said.
Useful digital teachers can only be built by feeding the data of millions into computers that then find patterns and turn them into action. Other outfits such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff Affectiva and Israeli startup Beyond Verbal Communication aim to learn what users are thinking based on facial expressions and vocal patterns. Apart from NetDragon, Lenovo unit Stoneware is installing tracking technology in classrooms.
But while companies in the West have built the technology, they’re wary of using it on children. Chinese businesses are less so, which is why some are taking the lead in monetizing it through education. Henry Lau, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong who helps run a VR lab called the "imseCAVE," sticks (adult) subjects in an interactive simulation box and then studies them while they drive virtual cranes or subdue criminals with mace.
"The American focus is definitely on technology initially, whereas a lot of Chinese companies tend to make use of cost-effective platforms to develop the content," said Lau, who adds that coders are cheaper in China. "We’re working with companies in Beijing that are developing and booming a lot in what we call e-learning software."
Chalapathy Neti is vice president of education innovation on IBM’s Watson team, which is building profiles of students around the world. Asian parents have proved to be more willing than those in the West to let their children take part, he agreed. But the researcher says the boost in learning created by combining VR and interactivity could be incredible.
"In a virtual reality lesson, if a student pauses and stares at stars in the sky and he’s looking at one in particular, I’ll know there’s interest in that particular field," he said. "When my children went to the zoo they weren’t looking at the animals but were focused on the engine of the train we were in — these guys now are in the automotive industry."
"GOP lawmakers have long warned that the administration's plan to relinquish its authority over ICANN, the global nonprofit that manages the internet's domain name system, could give authoritarian countries like China and Russia an opening to make an online power grab. Now, as the actual date of the transition approaches — Oct. 1 — Republicans are looking at throwing up new obstacles."