When someone in a movie tries to give a robot or a computer human intuition, things rarely go according to plan. The machines glitch out and become bloodthirsty killers that risk human lives to adhere to a narrow set of principles, or even worse, they turn into Robin Williams from "Bicentennial Man."
Plus, human emotions are hard to understand. Sometimes we can't even figure out what makes us happy. A group of researchers in the UK claim they have a device that may be able to do just that -- make us happy -- in our very own homes.
A technology development group called Emoshape started an Indiegogo campaign earlier this month to develop "the first A.I. home console," called EmoSpark. It's a cubed device that monitors a person's facial expressions and emotions by capturing images through an external IP camera and processing them through "emotion text analysis and content analysis." This makes it capable of gauging "the emotional responses of multiple people simultaneously."
The device can be controlled through basic voice commands and conversation sent directly to the console or through different devices such as a computer, tablet, or smartphone. EmoSpark is powered by Android and can link to these devices with a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection and a special app for smartphones.
EmoSpark can do simple things such as check the score of the game or weather forecasts and set timers or reminders. At the same time, it can recognize and assess a person's emotions and offer to share images, videos, or even basic conversation that it "thinks" might improve their mood and brighten their day.
How does it do that? According to the crowdfunding campaign, the device develops its own "Emotional Profile Graph" for each user. The graph is the device's individual record of each person's preferences, facial expressions, and reactions to certain stimuli that it can refer to each time it tries to improve or maintain each user's unique mood. It uses these virtual memories about a person to provide "a realistic range of expressions and interaction."
It can also act as a mini-Watson, tackling questions on a range of 39 million topics by quickly scanning for answers through Google, Wikipedia, and Freebase, a shared knowledge community developed by Metaweb.
So far, the EmoSpark has raised more than $11,000 toward its $100,000 goal, with 47 days left in the Indiegogo campaign.
If the device can do what it claims, it's an interesting way of implementing artificial-intelligence technology into daily human life in beyond helping us manage reminders and reading e-mails to us. It would also be nice to have a device that thinks and reacts on our emotional wavelength. If anything, it would be a huge step-up from the likes of Apple's Siri, who's apparently so humorless that even she can't appreciate the surrealist, romantic humor of Spike Jonze's "."