Sunday, December 12, 2010

Do you want to have a fight with your car's software?

Perhaps because it is Sunday and I had promised myself not to work today, yet find myself on the computer (again :) a little bit of irreverence and levity. Besides missing out on the sunny skies to plop myself in this ergonomically correct chair, I am working with 9 fingers, having accidentally smashed one of them into a steel pipe last weekend. Typing has been a bit challenging. But not nearly as much as flossing. Try flossing without both pinkies. It can be done but it takes creativity that would make my dentist proud.

I just listened to the podcast from National Public Radio's Science Friday. The host interviewed the high school pair who won the grand prize in the Siemens Foundation Math, Science and Technology contest  in.... yes... computer science. (The grand prize also went to someone working in astrophysics. NPR did not mention this, but it is on the Siemens Foundation contest web site. See above link) The prize is $100,000.  The host noted afterwards with some regret that he forgot to ask the teenagers what they would do with the money. I don't know...when you were 16, what would you have done with $100,000? That's a lot of [fill in your own blank].

The students developed code to identify emotions from your voice. The NPR host started off by describing how he would sometimes tell his automobile GPS to "shut up". And wondered if this technology would allow the car to adjust if it noted that he was pissed off. My first thought (remember, it is Sunday) was - so turn off the annoying GPS. It is bad enough when Google Maps takes me 5 miles out of my way and dumps me in the far end of a dead end parking lot when my desired destination was half a mile from where I originally got into my car in the first place. I have been in cars with people who cannot seem to drive without their GPS - brain, out the window. Annoying computer voice at the helm. ick....

So I'm not sure that I'd call that particular application of emotional recognition software socially beneficial. I might be more likely to get into an escalating argument with my car as it tried to be soothing and I became more and more annoyed at its cloying fakeness. Then I might find myself and my car in a ditch. Definitely not socially beneficial. Guess I should be clear that I'm pretty sure the car GPS application was the invention of the NPR host, not the students.

The students actually had something much more interesting in mind (assuming that your idea of fun and excitement does not involve fisticuffs with your dashboard). They are now considering creating a wristwatch that can be worn by Autistic children to help them in social situations. The watch will identify the emotion of the person being spoken to and show a picture (smiley face, frown, etc) to help the wearer correctly judge the mood of the other person. Now that is a bright idea and much more interesting I think. I hope they do it.

Meanwhile, I shall attempt to go back to not working....happy Sunday to all!

No comments:

Post a Comment