Finally, a pair of mind-reading glasses! Well, not quite, but Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab has developed a pair of “social X-ray glasses” that are designed to decipher emotions via facial expressions and could change the way we relate to one another.
The specs were originally developed to help autistic people better understand social cues. Author of a piece in New Scientist, Sally Adee, says even those of us without autism can find it tricky to comprehend subtle facial expressions that can be detrimental to our interactions with others.
"Blink and you miss it," she says, adding that the glasses "can thwart disastrous social gaffes and help us understand each other better".
The glasses, accompanied by a small camera and set of headphones, whisper hints in your ear to let you know if your conversation partner is "thinking," "agreeing," "concentrating," "interested," "confused" or "disagreeing." And as a helpful cue for you to listen up or change tack, a red light appears in front of your eyes if they’re disagreeing or confused.
Unfortunately it’s not a case of “put these babies on and bam!”; the glasses are only 64 percent accurate, which is not even 10 percent more accurate than your own brainpower. It seems it might be some time before we’re all prepared to hand over our innermost thoughts to a pair of talking goggles (and what’s more, our peers), but Adee says some companies are already using the technology to aid their communication with customers.
While I can only imagine the awkward conversation that might follow if the glasses indicate a partner is “confused” (“hey, did you hear that voice?”), perhaps it won’t be too long before we’re all coughing up to find out what they’re really thinking.
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