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What Am I Thinking?!
By: Jennifer Graber
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Using a smartphone can often be equated to being in a bad relationship. Sometimes the phone works and sometimes it does not. Then there are the times, like in a relationship, that you feel as if the phone just is not listening to what you are trying to say. Have you ever thought that your smartphone just does not get it? Or have you ever wished for a smartphone (or a partner) that understood you and knew what you were thinking?
 
That time has nearly come. Microsoft is on the forefront of intuitive smartphone technology. The tech company has teamed up with MoodScope to develop software that would be able to identify and measure the emotional state of the smartphone user. Think of it as a modern-day version of the fashionable '70s trend of the mood ring (no bell bottoms or tie-dye required).
 
MoodScope is building the new technology around "context aware computing," which will allow the software to measure the mood and emotions of the user based on the smartphone usage habits and history. The usage habits will likely include examination of text messages, browser history, application usage, and even telephone calls. It is also rumored that the data collected will be more application based, rather than built directly in. Either way, let us all hope that we have a choice in the matter.
 
With regards to the accuracy of this information, MoodScope and Microsoft completed a two-month study with 32 participants. In the study it was shown that the software had an accuracy rate of 66%. After a two-month training period, however, the accuracy rate improved to 93%.
 
What happens to the data? The data collected will be able to be shared in real time via social networking websites. Feeling really excited and you just cannot hide it? Your Twitter followers will know. Work stress got you down in the dumps? Then your Facebook friends will know. Who knows whether this is good or bad — guess it just depends on whether or not you really want your realm of social media to know exactly how you feel.
 
Some say that the impact of the MoodScope software will be that people can improve communications between friends, coworkers, and so forth. Understanding how a person is feeling, before face-to-face meetings, can provide advantages in preparation and actual communication.
 
Other implications for the software would be for companies, such as Netflix and Amazon, who recommend media and products as part of their services. These types of companies could add mood into their formulas as a way to improve upon their recommendations. For instance, feeling sad? Netflix has a movie for that. Or, feeling inspired? Amazon has a product for that.
 
The software could have some implications in the psychological and criminal justice fields as well. The data that the software collects could potentially help psychologists and psychiatrists diagnose or treat someone suffering from a mental health issue, i.e. depression, anxiety, anger management, and so forth. It would be an additional tool that would further the comprehension of an individual and his or her actions, and emotional state. Also, the collected data could assist those in the criminal justice fields by keeping track of and analyzing activity of criminals and suspects. Of course, it is important to note that these two implications in particular do raise questions about privacy and whether the cost outweighs the benefit.
 
There is no denying that MoodScope and Microsoft’s software has far-reaching implications, from within new media and beyond. But the question is, are we ready for it? Do we truly want our smartphones to announce to Facebook and other companies how we feel? The software would force us, and others, to face the ramifications of our real moods and emotions (sounds like that bad relationship again). Only time will tell if we are ready to take our relationship to the next level and have honest communication.


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About the Author
Jennifer Graber is a Business Development Manager and marketing enthusiast. Her specific interests include branding, consumer behavior, development, integrated marketing communications, and new & social media.
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