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24 Jan, 2014 16:13

​Gauging mood: New smartphone app to recognize speaker’s emotions

​Gauging mood: New smartphone app to recognize speaker’s emotions

Paying for expensive psychiatrists may be a thing of the past, with a new smartphone app that claims to measure the mood of anyone talking into the handset.

The app for the iPhone is called 'Moodies' and comes from a small tech company called Beyond Verbal. It's the culmination of almost twenty years of research.

Users talk into their mobile phone, and the software analyzes the speech patterns in real time. After about twenty seconds it produces a 'diagnosis' of the voice's mood.

The developers say users will be able to explore their own emotions and relationships, which include everything from personal life to work situations. They think that with links to Facebook and Twitter the emotional examinations could become another tool in social networking. It could even improve productivity by cutting down on wasted time.

“Our research into this new dimension of human insight started in 1995 with the understanding that it’s not ‘what we say’ but HOW we say it.” said a company spokesman. The technology has received four US patents, as well as “industry and academic recognition.”

The research behind the app combined the work of physicists, neuroscientists and psychologists. They sampled the voices of more than 70,000 people in over 30 languages to get an emotional speech database.

So, why do the creators believe it is so important, and will make groundbreaking changes to how humans interact with their electronic toys? Because it is the only “full-spectrum and real-time emotions solution,” as the company’s website explains.

The problem was simple: other voice recognition software like Google Voice or Siri, for instance, do not take intonation into account and, therefore, a vast number of searches end in frustration. Because how is a robot to break your thought down into a coherent sentence and pick out the most important part?

Beating that neuropsychological barrier would have uses in a whole range of activities – from user-tailored advertising to cutting down the amount of communication and time wasted in crucial situations, to interacting with your computer or consumer electronics.

There are other tech companies joining in on the human-machine interaction revolution. There is facial expression recognition software being developed, and the technology has already partially entered the phone market, with a new Samsung phone using a totally different approach to sensing your emotions – gauging how you use your phone, from the speed at which you type to measuring how much the device shakes during use.

The 'Moodies' software relies exclusively on voice input. Those that have already had the opportunity to test it say it is remarkable how impossible it is to cheat.

And as the software gets used more the technology in the system, called the voice engine, “learns” and its results can become more and more accurate.