By: Boisy G. Pitre, Mobile Visionary
We’ve all heard the phrase “she wears her heart on her sleeve.” It’s a common refrain that’s used to describe someone who displays their emotions openly and without inhibition.
Today, with the ever increasing and ready-to-explode market of intelligent wearables, that oft-used phrase carries a double entendre. The capabilities that these devices are bringing will help us (and others) understand ourselves in ways that were not immediately apparent before.
GETTING TO KNOW YOURSELF
The quest to understand ourselves has been around since the time of the Greek philosopher Socrates, whose famous axiom, “Know Thyself” was inscribed on the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. This idea behind knowing, or understanding one’s self remains as much of a goal now as it did in the 4th century B.C. Unlike then, however, today we have a myriad of technologies at our disposal which can be used to measure numerous aspects of our being. Physiological data that is derived from wearable devices can give us insights into our mind and health that we would otherwise be unaware of or ambivalent to.
Several companies have created wearables around the idea of health and fitness. Related variables such as pulse and heart rate are constantly monitored, and that’s just the beginning. As technology improves, the number and fidelity of data points will increase, and with it our understanding of how to interpret and utilize this data will grow. Combining that information with other factors such as our environment, can help us relate to ourselves and to our world more poignantly.
Consider what you could glean by being aware of your heart rate, for instance. A wearable device could monitor your heart rate while you listen to your favorite song. That information would then be combined to later suggest a soothing melody if you’re agitated. Such inferences can then be tied to emotional states, in an attempt to put you in the mood that you want to be in.
THE WRIST IS IN
The wrist is becoming a focal point of wearable computing, just as it has been for watch makers for over a century. Not surprisingly, we engage our hands in innumerable tasks, and the wrist is a convenient place for wearables to be worn. The upcoming Apple Watch signifies this melding of the traditional with the new: an intelligent device that incorporates a number of sensors to monitor your physiology right on your wrist, while giving you access to relevant information.
It’s not hard to imagine a future version of the Apple Watch, which incorporates a camera that activates when you raise your hand to look at your wrist. Using technology that has been pioneered at Affectiva, your emotional state could be measured via your face, with just a second or two of captured video.
As wearables make an increasingly indelible mark on our lives, concerns have arisen about the nature of the data that they collect and how that data might be used. It’s a conversation worth having, because the positive contributions that these technologies can deliver to us will depend on its adoption. Important questions of ownership and custodianship of this rich data have to be considered before people will put their trust in such devices and the companies who make them.
Much of our current digital data portfolio consists of memories in the form of photos and videos — those can certainly be personal in nature, but health and mental state data is much more so. Who we are, how we think about the world, and how we think about things in it is innately advertised throughout emotions. Having a machine deduce your thoughts on controversial or even taboo subjects without your expressed consent can be unnerving.
At Affectiva, we’re committed to the idea of emotions in computing, and how we use machines to both measure and understand them, while doing so with respect to the originator of that data. Wearable computing is a new and exciting vehicle for growth in this area, and will provide new pathways to obtain and explore our emotional health.