Today, we say we're "using" computers and mobile devices. But when computers, phones, and tablets run software that analyze the facial movements of their users, our gadgets can use us, in a way. They can track and read how we react to what we see, read, and hear onscreen. As facial-monitoring technology blooms in coming years, the design of ads, computer gaming, education and health care will likely be affected.
Advertising is the first sector starting to pioneer facial monitoring, according to The Economist. A London-based company, Realeyes, uses software and hardware to plot a user's facial features, such as nostrils and eyebrows. Then Realeyes tracks the user's reactions to what he or she reads and sees, and interprets their emotions via algorithms. They offer that data to clients as market research on the effectiveness of ads.
But interactive ads that adjust accordingly when a viewer frowns or smiles are in the near future, say Realeyes executives.
And advertisers aren't the only ones experimenting with facial monitoring. There are some well-known brands in the worlds of education, computer games, and healthcare that are designing new services and products using facial-monitoring software, according to The Economist. These include:
- Kaplan, the test-preparation and educational-services company, which is working with Realeyes to design language-training programs based on how a group of Hungarian children react to an online English-language course, as indicated by their tracked facial movements
- Sony, which claims that software can adjust computer games in real-time after reading gamers' facial reactions via webcams
- Philips, which is about to release an iPad app that uses the two webcams in that tablet device to monitor subtle changes in a user's facial skin tone that correspond with changes in heart rate-- an alternative to sensors attached to the skin.
Yes, it's early to tell how quickly facial monitoring might be adopted across entire industries. But it's clear to see that forward-thinking start-ups and corporations alike are exploring new design options triggered by this technology.
Image: Nico Cavallotto/Flickr