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Smile, AI is watching you!

Face recognition can move a step forward, detecting emotional status, concentration, focus, attention … Image credit: Limitless Software Solutions

Have you ever switched off your computer camera when joining a video conf because you did not feel at ease with people watching your room or the way you have dressed up? Well, now you might have a further reason to keep your computer camera off: artificial intelligence based software can detect your emotions as you listen and let the other participants know your feelings.

Zoom, one of the most widely used platform for conference calls, is working on ways to detect the mood of participants in a call, using artificial intelligence applied to face recognition. It is not a “first” in the area of emotion detection. There are several applications that do just that, but it is probably the first conf call platform planning to insert this feature to monitor participants emotions. This is already rising concern as a further step of intrusion in our personal life. It is true that people participating in a call can look at the other people’s faces and could detect their emotions as we do every day when meeting people. However, AI can go a step further, it can use the record of previous calls and learn over time the mood of a specific person and the reaction to topics (or way to present a topic). Also, in several cases it can be more accurate, it can even detect stress and relate it to “lies”. Image recognition can capture subtle hints that our eyes are unable to detect, like increase in blood pressure/opening of capillaries (an indication of an increased level of adrenalin, correlated to stress).

Notice that most of our social life is based on (accepted) behaviour. Sometimes we try to provide answers or touch topic that avoid upsetting the other party. Wearing a “social” mask is part of life in a community. If you were to always voice what you think social life might become hard. This is one of the objection to the practical applicability of “brain reading” technologies.

These emotion detection technologies (they also work on speech, voice analyses) are already applied in elections, marketing and more.

You may not like this evolution, however, just in case, remember to smile in your next conference call. Besides, even if there will not be any AI lurking beyond the scene, smiling always help!

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.