One of the major differences between people and machines is the human ability to feel emotion, express emotion, and sense emotion in others. Technology is changing that. Emotion-sensing products like AutoEmotive’s empathetic car sensors and Microsoft’s smart bra are opening the world’s eyes to a new realm of high-tech possibilities in which products sense how we’re feeling. Although it may sound eerie at first, emotionally intuitive technology could actually help make life safer, healthier, and more honest.
How Emotion-Sensing Technology Works
Image via Flickr quapan
Although we sometimes try keep our feelings private, our bodies betray us by displaying physiological signs of emotion. Heart rate, facial expressions, pupil dilation, body perspiration, and even piloerection – the bristling of body hairs in response to an emotional stimulus – act as red flags for various emotions. Some companies have incorporated sensor technology into their products as a way to gauge these emotions.
Toyota recently received a patent for an emotion-sensing car system which monitors the emotions of the driver and other motorists on the road. A concept vehicle called the POD fosters an actual relationship between a driver and his/her car. When a motorist drives safely, the POD responds with a clapping or smiling dashboard image. When a motorist drives in an unsafe way, the POD responds with a disapproving digital look.
The POD collects other data as well, including the pulse rate and perspiration level of the driver. LED panels at the front of the car turn orange when all is well, blue when the car maintenance is needed or the fuel level plummets, and red when the driver brakes heavily or seems angry. These colors, which are visible to other drivers, promote safety by adding an extra layer of communication to driving.
Microsoft’s mood-sensing smart bra, when nestled close to a woman’s chest, collects electrocardiogram data that can signal boredom, stress, and anxiety. The bra transmits this data to a smart phone, alerting the wearer of her emotional state. Microsoft’s goal: To prevent the overeating that sometimes results from emotional distress.
The public response to this invention has been a cross between fascination and rage. Microsoft has no plans to sell the product anytime soon.
Some consumers feel that life would be easier if technology would let people wear their emotions on their sleeves. Thanks to companies like Philips Design, this is now possible. Philips Design has created two SKIN prototype dresses that use emotion-sensitive fabric. The fabric changes color and pattern based on a wearer’s physiological signs.
The mood sweater by Sensoree measures a wearer’s “excitement level” by gleaning data from the skin. This data helps create “extimacy,” or externalized intimacy, with the public by changing the sweater’s collar color based on the wearer’s mood. Sensoree is now taking orders for a trial batch of 100 sweaters.
Mood-sensing technology helps us better understand ourselves and others. Increased self-awareness helps us make informed choices that keep us safe, healthy, and happy. Most mood-sensing brands are still in their infancy at this time, but the future certainly looks bright for these smart, sensitive products.