New technology uses wifi blasts to read people’s concealed emotions from a distance
What is any person’s natural defense to surveillance, and the feelings of being robbed of privacy and sanctity that accompany it? Silence, and taking measures to protect privacy.
A “poker face” may mean nothing if some new technology produced at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) actually works.
A team of researchers say they created a system that can accurately read a person’s concealed emotions from a distance.
From sadness, to excitement, anger to happiness, they say its “EQ-Radio” is accurate 87% of the time at detecting people’s concealed emotions.
Personally it sounds far-fetched that it would successfully read a person’s emotions without being directly linked to a person’s pulse and body like a lie detector.
However, the researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) are using regular WiFi signals that they bounce off a person to track their heart rates and reveal other info about the body that can apparently determine emotion. No skin touching censors, as used in lie detectors, are involved with the device.
According to Big Think:
“One of the challenges the team faced was filtering out extraneous “noise” such as breath sounds to clearly detect the heart rate. Bear in mind that it’s not audio that EQ-Radio has to analyze, but instead data that reflects the speed of the WiFi bounceback. So “noise” refers to irrelevant data, not the actual sound of, say, your breath. That they’re able to measure heart rate with about a .3% margin of error is remarkable. That’s as good as an ECG monitor.
The EQ-Radio software is based on previous work the lab has done using WiFi to detect human movement. The goal of the earlier work was to use WiFi in smart homes that could do things like control heat and lighting based on your location, and detect if an elderly person has fallen. (It’s also seen as having potential use for animation motion-capture in films.)”
If a device created by MIT can bounce WiFi frequencies off a person and analyze their concealed emotion, why wouldn’t this technology be used in conjunction with surveillance cameras?
Imagine the CCTV-type surveillance cameras all around you in the city becoming a complex of surveillance devices: a camera, a microphone, biometric sensors and software, and even a device that bounces WiFi-type waves off people to analyze their feelings.
A surveillance grid could be put in place to spot a person who is severely anxious in a crowd, and the state (or some private entity) could decide to investigate them based on their anxious heartbeat.
What if employers put emotion sensing devices and surveillance cameras around their building to analyze who has anxiety and who doesn’t? It’s a veritable hell for the introvert.
The article from Big Think admits the applications of this technology could get scary. They noted it could be used for:
“Far more accurate test screenings and focus groups for ad agencies and film studios. Smart homes that can adjust lighting and environmental controls to match, or help you out of, your mood. Smart hotels that could continually customize a guest’s environment according to mood. Non-invasive healthcare and psychiatric monitoring, with office or home-installed systems. Directed advertising based on an assessment of a target’s mood. Interrogations.
When EQ-Radio moves beyond its current laboratory setting, there’ll be obvious privacy concerns: Do you have the right to keep your feelings to yourself?
If you’re in a public place — say, a hospital or theater — where an EQ-Radio system is in operation, will a signed release from you be required before your emotional state can be tracked? Would you have to give a police department permission to monitor your feelings during an investigation, or could you refuse as you can a polygraph test? Could an authoritarian government “read” its citizenry at will? Will this become a standard tool to anti-terrorism authorities?”
It’s important that people actively try to think about where the future is headed. It’s not really in human nature to plan for the future with tons of foresight, in my opinion: it’s not easy to theorize about how the future will be, but with the way technology is advancing, we should really be creatively thinking about it.
We can either influence our future to be a beautiful oasis functioning in a way we like, or it can be an exquisitely complicated technocracy.
About the Author
Markab Algedi is a researcher from North Highlands, California.
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