Our faces are organs of emotional communication; by some estimates, we transmit more data with our expressions than with what we say, and a few pioneers dedicated to decoding this information have made tremendous progress. Perhaps the most successful is an Egyptian scientist living near Boston, Rana el Kaliouby. Her company, Affectiva, formed in 2009, has been ranked by the business press as one of the country’s fastest-growing startups, and Kaliouby, thirty-six, has been called a “rock star.” There is good money in emotionally responsive machines, it turns out. For Kaliouby, this is no surprise: soon, she is certain, they will be ubiquitous.
On the one hand, I could see how the advertising industry (among others) could use this as a weapon to manipulate us. On the other hand, I could see how this could be a very useful tool in researching human perceptions in different societies – perhaps even predicting how certain groups will behave in the future, from voting to consumption habits.
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