Have you ever wished you had a window into someone’s thoughts and feelings while you were having a conversation with them? Well it turns out we already have a perfect fisheye for peering into the emotions of the people around us; facial expressions, some immediately noticeable and others far more subtle, can give us rich insights into how people are feeling in a given moment, if only we knew how to read them accurately.
Scientists from MIT and Cambridge have created a prototype of a pair of glasses that can track 24 “feature points” of your conversation partner’s face and feed back information to the wearer on how their compatriot is feeling. This new eyewear isn’t just useful if you’re a little obtuse about the finer points of body language. They could also be valuable tools for people on the autism spectrum who often have a difficult time gauging the emotions of others according to NewScientist. They could also help with communicating across cultural boundaries, where the computer software that the glasses use might be better able to parse unfamiliar facial expressions than the human eye.
The person wearing these special specs receives information via a small headphone and a blinking light that, together, convey the mood of the other party. The six main expressions that the glasses can detect are: thinking, agreeing, concentrating, interested, confused and disagreeing.
While it would be useful to know if you were talking someone’s ear off or thrilling them with your wit and charm there’s the issue of privacy. No matter how good an actor you are, there are some microexpressions that you can’t mask. As a result, if someone wearing the glasses starts conversing with you without your permission, they could glean information that would make your interaction more, rather than less, awkward.
But you don’t need to worry just yet about your great aunt Doris discovering what you really think of her goulash. It will likely be a while before these glasses are on the market.