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June 27, 2006

Mind-reading computers

Top Story

June 27, 2006

LONDON: A raised eyebrow, quizzical look or a nod of the head is just a few of the facial expressions computers could soon be using to read people’s minds. An “emotionally aware” computer being developed by British and American scientists will be able to read an individual’s thoughts by analysing a combination of facial movements that represent underlying feelings. “The system we have developed allows a wide range of mental states to be identified just by pointing a video camera at someone,” said Professor Peter Robinson of Cambridge University in England.

He and his collaborators believe the mind-reading computer’s applications could range from improving people’s driving skills to helping companies tailor advertising to people’s moods. “Imagine a computer that could pick the right emotional moment to try to sell you something, a future where mobile phones, cars and Web sites could read our mind and react to our moods,” he added.

The technology is already programmed to recognise 24 facial expressions generated by actors. Robinson hopes to get more data from the public to determine whether someone is bored, interested, confused, or agrees or disagrees when it is unveiled at a science exhibition in London on Monday, July 3. People visiting the four-day exhibition organised by the Royal Society, Britain’s academy of leading scientists, will be invited to take part in a study to hone the programme’s abilities.

The scientists, who are developing the technology in collaboration with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologyin the US, also hope to get it to accept other inputs such as posture and gesture.

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