Dell Research, a new division of the recently privatized computer tech company, is working on a product to detect a person’s mood, for use in education, communications, or even while the user is driving or playing games.Jai Menon, the head of Dell Research talked about this to BBC, and shared the details of his ongoing work involving brain-activity monitoring headsets made by NeuroSky and other manufacturers, to see if they reliably indicate whether the wearer was happy, sad, bored or frustrated.
“If I can sense the user is working hard on a task, an intuitive computer system might then reduce distractions, such as allowing incoming phone calls to go directly to voicemail and not letting the user be disturbed,” suggested Menon, which reminds us very much of Good Times, the brainwave app that blocks phone calls when the user is busy. As we reported in last January, this app won the 1st prize ($30,000) of AT&T Hackathon 2013.
Menon added that Dell’s future product could also be adapted for gamers – a market Dell already targets with its Alienware PCs.
“If someone is playing a game and it senses they are bored, it could ratchet up the level of challenge automatically. If it senses they are frustrated, maybe it’s time to offer them a clue about how to proceed.”
When questioned about the mood-sensing product’s reliability, Menon said “We’re trying to push the accuracy of our software into the 90% or better range, and if we can get there then the product starts to make sense.”
“If an individual device doesn’t give us that accuracy then we will also add additional inputs – a pulse oximeter [to monitor the level of oxygen in a patient’s blood] or ECG (electrocardiogram – a heart rhythm monitor) or other readings, to see if multiple inputs help the software get to the correct value.”
According to the BBC, Dell could release the mood-sensing app as soon as 2017. As Menon put it: “My goal is to work on interesting things and then persuade the rest of the company to build the products. … But I suspect that within a three-year timeframe, if the experiments are successful, then such products can certainly be available.”
Dell is not the only major tech company experiencing with brain-computer interface technology, previously we reported about Intel, Philips, and Panasonic -just to name a few- also getting involved with similar researches.