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MIT creates a wearable AI social coach

Posted: 3 February 2017 | By Darcie Thompson-Fields

Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have created a wearable AI that can detect the tone of a conversation.

A single conversation can be interpreted a variety of different ways. For people with anxiety or conditions such as Asperger’s, this can make social situations extremely stressful. MIT CSAIL researchers believe they’ve gotten close to a solution, a device that objectively measures and understands our interactions.

“Imagine if, at the end of a conversation, you could rewind it and see the moments when the people around you felt the most anxious,” says graduate student Tuka Alhanai, who co-authored a related paper with PhD candidate Mohammad Ghassemi that they will present at next week’s Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) conference in San Francisco. “Our work is a step in this direction, suggesting that we may not be that far away from a world where people can have an AI social coach right in their pocket.”

Social coach

The researchers created a wearable AI system that can predict if a conversation is happy, sad, or neutral based on a person’s speech patterns and vitals.

As a participant tells a story, the system can analyse audio, text transcriptions, and physiological signals to determine the overall tone of the story with 83 percent accuracy. Using deep-learning techniques, the system can also provide a “sentiment score” for specific five-second intervals within a conversation.

“As far as we know, this is the first experiment that collects both physical data and speech data in a passive but robust way, even while subjects are having natural, unstructured interactions,” says Ghassemi. “Our results show that it’s possible to classify the emotional tone of conversations in real-time.”

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