How Sad or Mad Are You? Microsoft Says It Can Tell

November 11, 2015, 4:11 PM UTC

Project Oxford, the Microsoft research project that can tell how old you are are from a photograph (some of us didn’t dare try it), now claims it can read more from your face. Like your emotional state.

According to a Microsoft blog post, Project Oxford uses machine learning, a newer name for what used to be called artificial intelligence, to read emotional qualities from the facial image. Those qualities are: anger, contempt, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness, surprise, and—my favorite—”neutral.”

So that’s not creepy at all.

And now the company said it will release tools that developers can use to enable similar scenarios, although details were sketchy.

Marketing people, for example, could use this sort of technology to ascertain reactions to in-store displays, a movie, or food, Ryan Galgon, a senior program manager at Microsoft (MSFT) Technology and Research group, said in the post. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the same expertise would be of interest to law enforcement or intelligence agencies to gauge the state of mind of persons of interest in terrorism or other criminal investigations.

The goal of this sort of technology is to build smarter applications, maybe even apps that can read your mood and perhaps anticipate your needs based on that information. Maybe put a “Do Not Disturb” icon on incoming chats if you’re in a foul mood, for example.

The beauty of machine learning is that the technology itself gets smarter over time. The more data it sucks in, the smarter it gets.

Microsoft, Google(GOOG), which just released its TensorFlow machine learning technology to developers, Apple(AAPL) and other tech giants are racing to fine-tune machine learning to make their products smarter and thus, the thinking goes, more valuable to customers.


For more on artificial intelligence, aka machine learning, check out this video.

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