No escape for fibbers as e-mail porkies are unveiled

The wacky world of IT

Followers of Downtime will know that the shortcomings of e-mail are a preoccupation of ours. With the vast majority of e-mails being spam, it is getting harder to sort the wheat from the chaff and stay on top of our bulging inboxes.

And now we have yet another reason to avoid e-mail – because lie detection software, which can apparently tell whether an e-mail is less than honest, is nearly upon us.

Academics at Cornell University in the US are developing software that could enable bosses to discover if staff are feigning illness, or tip off the receiver when someone who claims to be stuck at the office is actually in the pub.

Jeff Hancock, head of the Cornell research team, explained, “There are certain cues that appear when someone is lying in an e-mail.

“We have had people come into the labs and write us a deliberate lie, and then tell us; and we have had others come in and tell us the deliberate truth. Using this method, we have built up a database of tens of thousands of e-mails.”

According to Hancock five things give us away when we are (e-)lying:

  • length of message (lying e-mails are longer)
  • use of the third person, to distance the writer from his or her lie
  • use of negative emotional terms like “sad”, “angry” or “stressed out”
  • overuse of sensory terms like “see”, “feel” or “touch”, which fibbers tend to use to make a
    made-up scene sound convincing
  • use of “causal” phrases – in layman’s terms, being really vague about the facts.

All of this sounds more than plausible to us. And while Downtime is notable for its unimpeachable honesty and integrity, we are only too aware that others’ standards are not so high.

We have said it before and we will say it again – pick up the phone.

Music software puts the brakes on joggers...

Last year Downtime reported that Apple had filed a patent for iPod technology that lets listeners match the tempo of their music to their exercise regime.

At the time, we foolishly questioned whether the world needed a gizmo to let iPods of the future come complete with an “accelerometer” to sense the wearer’s jogging speed and adjust playback accordingly.

But now another patent has come to our attention, which takes the iPod-jogger thing further. The idea is that modified headphones, as well as delivering the tune of choice, also measure the runner’s heart rate. Based on this, the system (we’re not kidding) interjects advice and encouragement, or warnings to slow down.

The software will also intone key statistics over the music. Put the two patents together, and runners could soon be enjoying
vari-tempo Kylie complete with over-enthusiastic “nice work” messages and super-stats every step of the way.

Whatever happened to going for a run to get a bit of peace?

Related article: Music technology is running gag

...while dial-a-burger speeds up fast food

Visitors to fast food outlets in Japan will soon be able to pay for their burgers with their mobile phones.

Last week Japanese mobile phone operator NTT DoCoMo confirmed it is teaming up with McDonald’s to offer e-payments and special promotions for mobile users.

Downtime for one is looking forward to buying a drive-thru Big Mac with a zap of the phone. Now there is a cultural and technological high point not many futurologists have been trumpeting. Why on earth not?

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