Chapter 6: Emotional Interaction

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Many of us are amused how a facial expression software app can recognize our emotions based on analyzing their facial expressions in real time. However, when using these kinds of apps most of us exaggerate our facial expressions in order to ‘show’ joy, anger disgust, fear, sadness and surprise. More subtle and nuanced facial expressions which many of us use in our everyday lives are likely to prove to be more difficult to distinguish from one another. And people with poker faces – even harder. It may confuse anger with disgust for example. Besides the classic 6 emotions there are other kinds which we may feel but don't show explicitly through our facial expressions – for example, how do you convey awe, sympathy, resentment, adoration, boredom, contempt or craving? There may be more variability in how different individuals express these through their faces.

Some people find it creepy that companies are collecting millions of images of people’s faces and then with the help of machine learning algorithms are determining how someone is feeling, and what emotional state they are in. They are particularly concerned that the system is trying to predict their intent and likelihood to purchase items online at a given time. It can feel as if it is invading someone’s privacy and a step too far. However, it has become a multi-million dollar industry and is likely to grow even more. In addition, to using it in marketing, it is now being considered for how it can help people when learning online, detecting driver impairment and in digital healthcare to help assess the wellbeing of patients. It could even start appearing on online dating apps to determine how interested someone is in images of potential matches. For an article about the ethics of facial recognition software see: