Til’s Tidbit (September 2014)

Most of us spend enough time on computers to establish some sort of rapport. Colleague? Companion? Friend? In an equal-parts exciting and creepy move that takes us closer to making Spike Jonze’s Her a reality, software designed by A.F.M. Nazmul Haque Nahin and colleagues has successfully got a computer to guess user’s emotions with 87% accuracy.

To provide data for the study, researchers asked volunteers to note their emotional state after typing passages of fixed text, as well as at regular intervals during their normal (‘free text’) computer use. Their approach was to detect user emotions by analysing the keyboard typing patterns of the user and the kind of words or sentences typed by them.

So let’s just all admit that we’re guilty of stiff fingered, jab-the-keyboard-in-rage-typing. Now through the magic of ‘keystroke dynamics and pattern analysis’ your laptop (now officially your new BFF) can guess that you’re feeling, wait for it – angry! Good job, technology.

The software attempts to pick up on several common emotional states – joy, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame and guilt – with joy and anger boasting the highest rates of accuracy.

While we’re pretty sure that the computer won’t be able to celebrate your happiness with a high five or give you a cuddle when you’re down, the software is an important step toward creating adaptable content for a more seamless computing experience.

Still, prepare for mass hysteria over computers stealing our jobs.