The technology that can read your emotions. (Login required)
The evolving technology has the potential to help people or even save lives. Cameras that could sense when a trucker is exhausted might prevent him from falling asleep at the wheel. Putting cameras embedded with emotion sensing software in the classroom, could help teachers determine whether they were holding their students’ attention.
But other applications are likely to breed privacy concerns. One retailer, for instance, is starting to test software embedded in security cameras that can scan people’s faces and divine their emotions as they walk in and out of its stores. Eyeris, based in Mountain View, Calif., says it has sold its software to federal law-enforcement agencies for use in interrogations.
The danger, Dr. Ekman and privacy advocates say, is that the technology could reveal people’s emotions without their consent, and their feelings could be misinterpreted. People might try to use the software to determine whether their spouse was lying, police might read the emotions of crowds or employers might use it to secretly monitor workers or job applicants.
“I can’t control usage,” Dr. Ekman says of his catalog, called the Facial Action Coding System. “I can only be certain that what I’m providing is at least an accurate depiction of when someone is concealing emotion.”
In Dr. Ekman’s analysis, there is no such thing as a simple smile or a frown. Facial movements are broken down into more-nuanced expressions; there are seven ways a forehead can furrow.