Your phone could know how you're feeling

Engineers at the University of Rochester have developed an experimental program that gauges the emotional state of a speaker based on "the volume, pitch, and even the harmonics of their speech." This program achieves 81 percent accuracy in gauging the emotions of the person who's speaking to it, "a significant improvement on earlier studies that only achieved about 55 percent accuracy."

When I got to that part, I began to get worried that this technology could be used to monitor the emotions of your friends on the phone, which strikes me intuitively as invasive.  But when the program is used on a voice other than the one it's trained on, its accuracy drops from 81 percent to about 30.  They're trying to fix that, but it seems to me like it's a good thing -- it'd be great to have a cell phone app that can keep track of how I'm feeling, but which wasn't capable of letting my friends monitor my emotions in the same way.

I also wonder about how this technology might affect society if it becomes ubiquitous.  Would people use it to begin training themselves out of expressing emotion?  Use the phone to give them instant feedback on how to minimize the signs of sadness or anger, or how to fake either?  I'm sure some people would.

But maybe it would lead people to get more in touch with their emotions -- it's easier to keep track of a part of your life like that if you can gather objective statistics about it.  If your phone can tell you "You were more than usually sad this past week," you can get a clearer view about what kind of things make you sad.

Hank Green's Good Samaritan App

[notice]This is only a hypothetical app, but should totally exist.[/notice] Hank Green, Vlogbrother rockstar, posted this picture on Twitter last night, and it received "significant interest."

I didn't see it at first, but across the top, there's a feature I wish I had.  "If found, slide to contact owner."

Hank says about the idea:

I have, several times in my life, found people’s phones and then called or texted people in their contacts to get in touch with the person who owns the phone. There’s nothing more horrible than losing a phone. It’s expensive, inconvenient, and potentially dangerous (if you don’t have a lock on it, passwords are easy to find.)

But if you do have a lock on it, the occasional good Samaritan will be stumped for ways to get the phone back to you.

I’d much rather there just be a feature that you can turn on to allow someone who found your phone to get in touch with you immediately. Strictly optional, of course, but you can set it up to allow the nice person to send you an email, text your mom, call your house…whatever.

I want this to be a thing.  Go grab the nearest app designer you know and drag them to a computer screen, so they can make this.

Crappy capitalization rules

Okay, so I am going to complain about something today.  But don't worry, it's frivolous. A book by Larry D. Rosen, called iDisorder, is reported on in Businessweek.  The article is titled,

IPhone Obsession Brings No Relief for Imagined Vibrations

It's not called an IPhone.  It's an iPhone.  The "i" is lowercase.  Wikipedia has gotten over this: They used to have an incredibly annoying rule that required them to capitalize the first letter of articles.  They've gotten over this, to a certain extent.  In cases where it's not possible, they point out that it's currently not do-able, implying they intend to fix it, eventually.  Because, you know, these things have a correct spelling.

xkcd actually had to create a rule to get past this[1. and I realize the irony that the rule itself calls the issue pedantic.]:

For those of us pedantic enough to want a rule, here it is: The preferred form is "xkcd", all lower-case. In formal contexts where a lowercase word shouldn't start a sentence, "XKCD" is an okay alternative. "Xkcd" is frowned upon.

I know this isn't a super-important issue, but it bugs me that an obsession with outdated capitalization conventions result in articles deliberately mistyping information.  That sort of thing is all over journalism -- AP Style is pretty much designed to cause it.

Now, I'm going to go find something happy to write about for my last post of the week.