Chinese scientists are claiming they have developed a smartphone app that can detect human emotions by body movements.
Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Psychology professor Zhu Tingshao says that the technology has a wide range of applications, including a "smart bracelet" that can send an alert if the wearer becomes emotionally unstable.
He says the Android app can tell if the user is happy, angry, or calm, with 90 percent accuracy. The app, which analyses the user's gait variations, was developed in collaboration with China Electronics Corporation.
There are other emotion detection apps already on the market, but they identify specific emotions from the user's facial expressions and voice patterns, requiring active engagement from the user such as a selfie. But Professor Zhu's says the app built by his team of scientists can "generate daily, weekly or monthly emotion profiles reporting how the emotion changes over time" by using motion sensors already built into most smartphones which capture body movements.
The app tested a group of 59 volunteers and showed 90.31 percent accuracy when distinguishing anger, 89.76 percent in detecting happiness, and 87.10 percent accuracy in identifying anger.
The test participants watched a short film produced to evoke either a happy or angry response and then walked for two minutes with smartphone attachments strapped to their ankles and wrists.
Although the accuracy tests are significant, Professor Zhu says there are some limits to the technology which his team is continuing to refine. These include the ankle readings being more accurate and the app not being able to detect mood when the smartphone is carried in a pocket.
Privacy advocates say the technology raises serious privacy concerns, something which Professor Zhu acknowledges saying, "There is no law telling us whether the status of emotion is an area of personal privacy.”
Some companies have sold the earlier emotion-detection technology to law enforcement agencies for use in interrogations, while some shopping malls have experimented with it to see if it can pick the mood of customers as they shop.