Researchers at the MIT Media Lab in the US have developed a device that “reads minds” and alerts wearers to the emotional states of the people they are communicating with.
The Emotional Social Intelligence Prosthetic, or ESP, could be used by people with autism to better read the emotions of others around them.
The “mind-reading” term refers to the subconscious, and can include non-verbal expressions such as facial expressions and head movements.
The system determines emotional states by analysing facial movements and gestures, including raised eyebrows, lip pursing and head nodding.
The ESP includes a handheld computer, a small wearable video camera, an earphone and a small vibrating device which can be worn on a belt.
As a conversation begins, the device “mind-reads” the listener on behalf of the wearer. When the listener begins to show signs of boredom, the speaker is signalled so that they can re-adjust their behaviour to interest the listener.
The device could be useful for those with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). Those with ASC can lack the ability to evaluate others' emotions on their own, meaning they can become hampered or held back in social environments.
The ESP may also be used by those suffering from Asberger's syndrome, a mild form of autism.