Empathic Things: Devices That Know How You Feel

05bits-disrupt-blog480A few weeks back we launched our second report in our on-going research into the internet of things. This report was focused on what we call ‘Empathic Things‘; devices, such as wearables, that have become increasingly personal and social. We are witnessing a computer boom in terms of kinds, shapes and sizes – around, on or inside the body – that behave increasingly smart and link up more and more intuitively with man’s extremely personal and natural interface. There are more and more devices that count our steps, take our blood pressure or measure the indoor temperature, track our location or conversations. And our emotions.

Monitoring facial expressions have long been the set route for detecting user emotions. But now, with a new generation of sensors, developers can judge emotion through people’s skin and breath. Engineers at Stanford University have applied this to gaming by tweaking an Xbox game console with sensors that monitor players’ emotions and alter the game play accordingly. Check out the video

The modified controller he built tapped into people’s autonomic nervous system — the part of the brain that operates largely below our consciousness to control things like heart rate and breathing. By watching this control system, the sensors could tell if people were happy or sad, excited or bored. To quantify emotions, sensors measured how long it took for a slight electrical current to pass from one arm to another. The game changes accordingly to your state of mind: so if the sensors detect a lower heart rate, changes are your pretty bored and the game increased the difficulty level.

The big deal about this project is that it’s just sensors inside a piece of hardware (the controller) that one is already using. In stead of sensors and other hardware that needs to be strapped to the head. Also, with wearables we are slowly tapping into all sorts of biometric data that can give input to the systems we are interacting with. The same is increasingly true for smartphones; the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone has a built-in heart-rate monitor that could be used to determine its user’s health or state of mind. Applications of empathic things are slowly moving towards systems that can relate, and anticipate to your state of mind.

In the next decade Personal Computing will become really personal: inside, on and around the person with attention for the context of the individual. If your interested in empathic things, please download and read our latest report

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