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Microsoft awarded patent for glasses that know how those around you feel

Technically Incorrect: A "wearable emotion detection feedback system" is exactly what you want from your eyewear, isn't it? It is. Don't you want to know how those around you really feel?

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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The perfect gadget for the insecure? Microsoft/USPTO

Every time your shrink asks you: "But how do you really feel?" you muster some sort of response that you hope will steer the conversation elsewhere.

Our true feelings are the last bastion of our selves. They're our last protection against being fully owned by Google and Facebook. As opposed to the current 75 percent stake they share.

Now, however, feelings may become public knowledge. I gasp as I learn that Microsoft this week secured a wearable patent: glasses that can detect the feelings of anyone in your field of vision.

It's entitled "Wearable emotion detection and feedback system."

Its abstract declares that this is "a see-through, head mounted display and sensing devices cooperating with the display detect audible and visual behaviors of a subject in a field of view of the device."

It's a little like those things NBA players wear when they have pink eye. It's a lot more intrusive.

The idea is that you'll be able to tell when that big-toothed smiley salesman in front of you is, in fact, deeply angry. You'll be able to tell if the sullen-looking bartender you're talking to is, in fact, in love.

You'll have to wear them on every first date, so that you can be clear whether the person on the other side of the table really does think you're gorgeous or is just saying so. And just imagine how you'll be able to, finally, finally know what your spouse is truly feeling.

You can surely imagine the science behind this. In Microsoft's words: "During interactions, the device, recognizes emotional states in subjects by comparing detected sensor input against a database of human/primate gestures/expressions, posture, and speech. Feedback is provided to the wearer after interpretation of the sensor input."

Yes, it's just like those non-verbal communication experts they always wheel out at election time, so that you can be informed whether Candidate X is nervous and evasive or whether he's so in love with himself that the world is, for him, a mere mirror of adoration.

It's adorable how the scientists behind this idea speak of humanity. For example: "Emotions have an important influence in human lives, and can influence psychological and social behavior."

Well, quite. If only those behind Microsoft's marketing had realized this for the last decade, the company might not be playing emotional catch-up.

Microsoft hopes, with this device, to know what specific gestures might mean different things in different contexts. In some, nose-picking is an expression of relaxation. In others, a form of passive aggression. You didn't know?

I contacted Microsoft to ask how real are the prospects of such glasses emerging onto human heads. A company spokeswoman told me: "Microsoft regularly applies for and receives patents as part of its business practice. Not all patents applied for or received will be incorporated into a Microsoft product." I have a feeling that she had some feeling about how I felt on hearing this cryptic reply.

May I be open and confess a qualm? If you know someone is wearing a device that is spying on your soul, don't you try and adjust your soul's mechanisms in order to fool the device?

Won't we all be wandering around constantly playing signal subterfuge in order to preserve our privacy.

In other words, it'll be exactly like today.

(Via The Wall Street Journal)