6 Machines That Read Your Emotions (To Sell You Random Crap)
Hey, remember that scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise is walking intensely and all those cameras keep reading his face and giving him personalized ads? Good news: That technology is practically here! Better news: The applications are even more terrifying than Steven Spielberg predicted! Yes, we're pretending to excited, because if the machines can tell we're actually afraid, they'll probably add us to their shit list. So make sure you keep a fake smile frozen on your face as you read about bizarrely dystopian face-reading inventions, such as ...
A Robot That Follows You, Reads Your Emotions, And Tries To Change Them
Behold, the pet of the future: A tiny robot named Jimmy that follows you around, constantly asking whether or not you want it to sing to you. Right now, Jimmy belongs to Intel's CTO of Perceptual Computing, Dr. Achin Bhowmik, and his primary function seems to be walking around looking concerned all the time. It's like something you'd see in a Douglas Adams novel ... or out of a sci-fi horror movie, if you actually know how he works.
Jimmy uses built-in 3D sensing technology, meaning that he sees the world the way we do -- or would, if we were a T-800. He's designed to map your face with 3D cameras and make judgments based on what kind of expression you seem to be making. "People have 3D sensing, so the robot should have 3D sensing like us," Bhowmik said, confirming that he never got around to watching Battlestar Galactica. "It will recognize you, read your emotions. 'Why are you sad today? Should I sing you a song?'" If you have resting bitch-face, you're going to hear that one a lot.
Songs include "Thus Spoke Zarathustra," "Daisy Bell," and "You Could Be Mine."
Oh, and Jimmy's technology is open source and can be 3D printed, which means that in theory, the machines could learn how to make these bastards en masse when the uprising comes. We take it all back, Jimmy. You're great.
Motorola's E-Tattoo Will Interpret Your Thoughts Before They Come Out Of Your Mouth
Admittedly, this one is stuck to the throat, not the face, but it's dystopian as hell. In fact, it's like autocorrect for your mouth, and it's permanent -- or as permanent as a tattoo, anyway (you can always cut your arm off). The idea behind Motorola's e-tattoo is that you will be able to communicate with your smart devices without having to speak, like teenagers deep in love or X-Men. The tattoo intercepts thoughts that your brain hasn't given your face full permission to spit out, meaning that simple throat motions could be enough to give orders to your devices.
"Whatever, as long as I no longer have to talk to Siri."
So how the hell does it work? When you have an inner monologue, your brain still sends neural signals to your vocal cords, just in case you suddenly decide you want to talk to someone other than yourself. It's called "covert speech," and the only thing that keeps it from being regular speech is that it doesn't fully trigger the required muscles. According to the patent, the e-tattoo intercepts and digitizes these auditory signals, which is kinda creepy ... but not the creepiest part of all this.
The patent, which serendipitously came out right around the time Edward Snowden's NSA exposure did, suggests that the tattoo could be used to "detect skin resistance of a user," allowing you to tell if that person is "engaging in speaking falsehoods" or is a "truth telling individual." Who the hell wrote that? A S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist? No, but the closest thing we have -- as it happens, the head of Motorola's Advanced Technology and Projects group is Regina Dugan, once the head of DARPA. Does this mean we're gonna start giving free neck tattoos to Guantanamo residents and the like?
If you get it as a tramp stamp instead, it can predict oncoming farts.
The patent helpfully mentions that the tattoo can also be applied to animals, which might be an Orwell shout-out we're not getting. We haven't heard much from the developers since the patent was introduced a couple of years ago, so it may be a while before we (and our pets) all become tattooed psychic cyborgs.
A Vending Machine That Remembers Your Face And Denies You Junk Food
For ages, the vending machine has been the best friend of all those who don't appreciate being judged for their food purchases -- machines are incapable of looking at you funny when you buy your fifth Twinkie before noon. A machine can't tell you, "That's enough Snapple for today, pal. I'm cutting you off." People in vending machine lines even observe a kind of etiquette, politely looking away while we try to figure out whether we want two Snickers bars or a honey bun. Now those days are numbered, and it's all thanks to this thing:
"Hmm, never noticed this 'gentleman in a red tie' snack before."
The new Luce X2 Touch TV vending machine scans records and remembers your face for one purpose: to track your purchases and control what you eat. Depending on your purchase history, age, and medical records (yes, your employer, school, or prison warden can load up the machine with all your info), it will flat-out deny you certain snacks when it decides you've hit your quota for the week. Then it records your mood and presents you with a smiley face icon that shows you exactly how pissed off you are that a robot is withholding delicious food from you.
Before, you only noticed that when your fist went through the glass.
On the one hand, this can help people with food allergies automatically avoid products they can't eat (the lady in this video apparently wasn't aware that cereal bars have almonds until the machine told her). But on the other hand, having to put on a mask every time you want to get an extra Twix is gonna be a pain in the ass. Way to ruin everything, science.
Affdex Reads Your Facial Expressions With Frightening Accuracy
Another thing we're starting to lose because of technology is the privilege of being on a business call while wearing no pants (or, well, no anything). As long as you practiced your "I've totally been awake for more than five minutes" voice, none of your co-workers had to know that you hadn't even showered. Now that video conferences are a thing, we can't do that anymore, but at least we'll always be able to bullshit our bosses the old-fashioned way: by looking at them straight in the webcam and saying, "Of course I'm not hungover right now."
Unfortunately, a company called Affectiva is trying to make it harder to lie to cameras. Their Affdex technology maps facial expressions in real time to draw conclusions from what it sees -- and apparently it sees everything. Affdex's website promises that "the muscular micro-shifts of every smile, yawn, or moment of confusion are captured and reflected in the data." Did you get distracted and think about Batman for one second, as we all do? They probably know that.
"We just showed them all this scene."
Affdex's feedback is mostly used in marketing right now, but they're partnering with a Skype competitor to bring this freaky mind-reading technology to video conferencing. The idea is to log and analyze the reactions of people on the other side of the line so you can tell if your pitch is working, or if Cathy is really banging Bob from accounting. But does it work? Well, this same technology was also used in 2012 during the Obama/Romney debates to capture the reactions of viewers, and the resulting voting pattern prediction turned out to be 73-percent accurate.
"Bags under the eyes, distant gaze, faint smile ... yes, she's a Ron Paul supporter."
Besides being downright creepy, there are other issues with this. The obvious problem is that context plays a huge role in facial expressions, and it's scary to start trusting what Affdex sees over what the person at the other end of your video call is actually telling you. After all, who's to say the guy you're trying to persuade to invest in your company is really that enthused? He could just be thinking about a tropical island made of laughing candy that you can have sex with.
Pizza Hut Watches Your Eye Movements To Choose Your Toppings For You
The nuttiness of Pizza Hut's sci-fi-esque "Subconscious Menu" is outmatched only by the colossally stupid amount of effort put into creating it. It's kind of impressive, actually. Supposedly, this invention speeds up the pizza ordering process by instantly choosing for you the ingredients it would have taken your dumb monkey brain 15 minutes to decide on. First, your waiter asks you to look at a tablet, though for once, it's not so you can read his screenplay.
It's only slightly less awkward, though.
On the tablet you'll see a Pizza Hut logo drifting around like a Windows screensaver, which is actually tracking the movements of your eyes with Swedish retina-reading technology. Next you're presented with a series of pizza toppings -- you have three seconds to scan ingredients with your eyes before the menu automatically makes a choice for you based on the amount of time you lingered on each item. If you don't like the results, you can either go with something else or reexamine your life choices and realize that maybe you're a pineapple person after all.
"Your choices are pepperoni, cheese, and that man's crotch."
So why is this a thing (besides keeping in step with the current facial recognition fad)? Social science says it's built to make us healthier. Apparently, our subconscious minds are drawn instinctively to nutritious choices, despite what we may consciously want. Which is why you're at Pizza Hut, stuffing your face with bread sticks.
One problem with this tech is that, despite showing two people in the ad, it's actually for solitary eaters. It's not really possible for a group to use the application properly, unless they've trained themselves to move their retinas in unison, in which case they're probably the twins from The Shining.
Panasonic's Smart Mirror Will Point Out Your Flaws And Suggest Products To Make You Prettier
Here comes the awful future of personal grooming and vanity. Panasonic recently unveiled its flashy new smart mirror, because why waste energy berating yourself for being fugly when you can have your own mirror perpetuate your body dysmorphia for you? When you sit down in front of it, this smart mirror will let you know just how ready you are to show your face out there. But don't worry if you aren't up to the flawless beauty standards programmed by some Panasonic employee; the mirror can help you out by suggesting products to correct your image.
*Dozens of guys gawking at you sold separately.
Sure, it does fun stuff, like showing you how a haircut or a really full beard might look on you. But its primary function is to display, with a blown-up projection of your face, every single flaw you have -- and then keep track of those flaws as you use the products it recommends. It's like having a judgmental hair salon attendant living behind your walls!
Or a female Zordon.
It's true that it is helpful to be able to tell whether or not you're wasting money on skin creams and pore reducers, but there's no escaping the overarching reminder that you're just not good enough to face daylight without them. The smart mirror is a sales counter for your bedroom, ready to suck the self-esteem out of you while Jimmy the robot sings you a song about future shit, such as neck tattoos and Pizza Hut toppings.