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Smart phones of the future may be able to identify human emotions

Remember the mood ring? Well the smart phone of the future may be able to identify your mood based on the sound of your voice.

Researchers at the University of Rochester are developing a program that can gauge human feelings through speech analysis. Instead of analyzing the words spoken, the program works by examining a dozen features of the voice -- things like pitch and volume -- to place the voice within an emotional range.

Electrical and computer engineering professor Wendi Heinzelman says the research is focused on helping psychologists interpret spoken interactions between different groups of people; and that could have all sorts of other applications.

For example, Heinzelman says the program could assist people with behavioral disorders to understand important social cues and interpret other people's emotions.

"If your cell phone, for example, could know what your emotions were, it could do things like play you a certain song if you're sad, or change colors, or display a picture of your mom, or do something like that to try and help you when you're not feeling so good," said Heinzelman. "Or if you're feeling really great, to kind of keep you motivated, you can imagine some applications like that."

At the moment the program can only identify emotions in people it has been trained on using voice samples, and researchers need to make it robust enough to function with the background noise of the real world.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail