Of lies and margaritas

Of lies and margaritas

Summary: The busy folks at MIT's Media Lab are at it again--this time it's an "emotional social intelligence prosthetic" for people with autism. The device consists of a miniature, glasses-mounted camera and face-analysis software.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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The busy folks at MIT's Media Lab are at it again--this time it's an "emotional social intelligence prosthetic" for people with autism. The device consists of a miniature, glasses-mounted camera and face-analysis software. The system doesn't recognize a face so much as "calculate" the emotional state of its owner based on expression--furrowed brow, flared nostrils, pursed lips, rapidly-growing canines, etc. It will signal you when your interlocutor is becoming bored or otherwise irritated with the conversation.

So what?

I don't think the market is limited to those with autism--most of us could use this sort of device. I've often wished that the gentleman sitting next to me on a long flight were more emotionally intelligent than he is. (You'd think that long sighs, crossed eyes and the occasional lapse into a coma would be enough to quiet him down, and yet...) The really interesting possibilities here, of course, come from accurate lie detection. Presumably, analysis software sensitive enough to detect ennui will be able to detect the fine muscle movements that accompany deliberate falsehoods. Materials science could supply lenses that turn steadily pinker as the "deception index" rises (a new twist on seeing red and on looking at the world through rose-colored glasses). It almost doesn't matter how accurate they are--if your salesman/spouse/student knows you're wearing them, he'll be careful to stay on the straight and narrow. I'm not sure how I feel about the (possibly) imminent demise of our ability to lie--after all, marriages, friendships, supervisory relationships and premium customer service ("It's always a pleasure to serve you, sir.") all depend, to some extent, on the successful execution of lies great and small. The Media Lab may be working on one of those inventions that, like the hydrogen bomb and the margarita (I have a complex relationship with the margarita), we'll one day wish we had suppressed.

Topic: Mobility

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