What Next: Wearables that Sense your Emotions!

Wow. She is hot. I cannot live without her. I do not give a damn. F**K. Let it go. Move on. Oh God, why me? Thank you! Aww…

The emotional quotient of human beings makes them different from the rest of inhabitants of planet. Science and technology has always wanted to get hold of wandering emotions of human beings. It is such an intriguing aspect of human nature that science has always wanted to understand and capture these emotions in the brackets of chemical equations! But so far deconstructing emotions has been proved to be a bit more complex and challenging than just manifesting and limiting it to the natural reactions of hormones.

But this has not deterred wearables to venture into this enigmatic yet striking segment and no wonder, today there is a surge in emotional wearable tech that tries to read through and understand the emotions we go through.

Overview of Emotion Sensors and Emotion Wearable Tech

From sadness to attraction and from arousal to apathy, these wearables track your emotions via emotional sensing. Mind you, emotional sensing is not a new kid on the block. It is just that it has taken fancy of many just recently.

We know how Facebook pulled the newsfeed data from its 700,000 users and let the researchers detect as well as manipulate it for their study. Similarly, Tesco was defamed and publicly criticized over the installation of devices at the checkout to recognize facial expression of people standing and then to propagate relevant advertising while they waited for their turn to come.

Emotional sensing tech is being deployed in the healthcare segment too for the benefit of autistic kids. Affectiva’s Q Sensor measures electrical changes in the bodies of autistic kids and detects the signs for physiological symptoms such as excitement, stress or anxiety. Since kids suffering from autism are not very expressive and need special care to ensure holistic growth, this Q sensor help caretakers and parents to observe them with a certain data at hand. As of now, this device has been used in the labs or at clinics by doctors under observation to figure out what ticks the kids most and thus, prevent the outburst or mood swings of kids considerably.

It is to be noted that Affectiva is a well-known facial emotion depository and currently, is the world’s largest. Co-founded by Rana el Kaliouby, it supports researchers to detect the underlying feelings of people. The company has now released a software development kid, dubbed as Affdex. With the help of this kit, developers can create apps for iOS that provide unfiltered emotional data. If it starts happening at large scale, this can motivate people and aid the doctors to curb down the negative emotions. Stress, depression, binge eating and suicidal tendencies will be detected in time and controlled via self-control as well as by recognizing the triggers of such behavior.

philips_emotional_sensing_dress

Likewise, we have Studio XO with the technical backup of Lady Gaga’s Haus of Gaga. The studio takes pride in designing interactive fashion with a focus on wearable tech. The studio was in news for creating Lady Gaga’s Flying Dress, Volantis and then for “Bubelle”, a dress that changed color in accordance with the mood of the wearer. It was hailed as futuristic fashion of the year 2020 and was laced with biometric sensor. But if you have even the slightest vision for aesthetics, you know that it was a sheer horror and assault on senses.

galvactprof

Well, now XO has come up with Galvactivator that reads the arousal level for people using skin conductance technology. The E-meter of Church of Scientology is based on it. Sweating is also one of the components of lie-detector test.

neurotiq

Moreover, in the segment of emotional sensors, we have Neurotiq headdress that is designed and conceptualized by a San Francisco-based designer, Kristin Neidlinger. This headdress rolls in EEGs, skin-detectors and heart rate monitors to track the well-being of the wearer.

theunseen-swarovski

Unseen, a design studio based in London, has grown Swarovski crystals in its lab to detect the brain pattern. The crystals are dipped in a special ink to react to the brain pattern.

How does emotional wearable tech work? Does it work at all?

The emotional sensors work on a hypothesis that when a person experiences strong feelings or whirls of emotions, he sweats a lot. This moisture improves the conductivity of electricity to body, which is then detected by the sensors planted on your body. But it needs more than the electric current to adjudge the mood of a person. It needs a context to communicate the experience because a person might sweat more when he is exercising or is bursting with anger. So, these two scenarios and feelings also need to be distinguished. Sweat levels and reaction levels also vary from a person to person. My body might be quick to send down the electric current but yours might not. Also, you cannot distinguish between emotions. You are feeling aroused but are you angry or sexually charged? No clue! You are happy; you know it and see your tracker for the forthcoming response but can it be used to detect stress or depression? Nope. And this is where the idea is lost.

There are not always the perfect conditions as well. Your air conditioner is not working and you are sweating a lot. Are you sweating because of arousal? That may be the last thing on your mind on such hot, sweaty afternoons but your wearable may tell you so.

Thus, the gap between reality and assumed emotions needs to be bridged before something like an emotion meter is launched for consumers because nobody would like to be told to grieve when he is turned on or vice-versa.

Meanwhile, scientists are also zeroing on the functional magnetic resonance imaging comes in the picture. The procedure is called Optogenetics and tracks the activity of neurons as well as senses the origin of message in the brain. It won’t only differentiate between the activities but also interpret it for us. However, this is a highly invasive procedure and will need lots of tugs to be finally optimized for wearables.

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