There are plenty of gadgets on the market that listen to your voice to let you play music or videos, get answers to questions, or control smart home devices like light bulbs or thermostats.
But researchers at MIT have developed a wearable gadget that listens for another reason: their prototype watch can determine the mood of a conversation by listening to spoken words and measuring physiological responses including heart rate, blood pressure, and skin temperature.
Theoretically this type of wearable could help people with Aspberger’s or other conditions which may otherwise make it difficult to navigate some social situations.
In order to determine if a speaker is happy, sad, or expressing other emotions, the wearable device combines physiological measurements with tone, pitch, and vocabulary and other elements of a spoken conversation.
The technology is still in the early phases of development and isn’t ready for use in “social coaching” situations yet. But researchers say it’s already capable of recognizing some social cues. For example, “long pauses and monotonous vocal tones were associated with sadder stories, while more energetic, varied speech patterns were associated with happier ones.”