ideas, innovations and apps for social work in the age of smartphones and social media
As you slip on the Google Glass frames — placing them carefully over your own eyeglasses — you’re told they can read the emotions of the people around you.
You peer through the frames, focusing on the tiny digital display hovering in the air, and just beyond the display, there’s a face looking back at you, smiling about as wide as it can smile. But the payoff doesn’t come. Though the face is less than a foot away, Glass doesn’t read the happiness. “Neutral,” the display says.
As it turns out, the problem isn’t the computerized eyewear. It’s you. You’re so focused on the hovering display, you’re not looking at the smiling face. When you turn slightly, gazing straight at that smile, the display responds. “Happy,” it says. And when the face changes, dropping the smile for a wide-eyed, wide-mouthed look of shock, the display changes too. “Surprise,” it says.
These Google Glass frames run an experimental application cooked up by the person you’re looking at — the guy who keeps moving from happiness to surprise and back again. His name is Catalin Voss, and he’s all of 18 years old.
At 15, after catching the eye of computer science legend Steve Capps, Voss was commuting between Heidelberg, Germany and California to build mobile applications for a Silicon Valley startup called PayNearMe. Now, two months removed from his freshman year at Stanford University in Palo Alto, he’s fashioning a Silicon Valley startup of his own, a company that seeks to remake education using software that tracks facial expressions and body language.
Known as Sension, the company envisions a world where online teaching tools instantly respond to your behavior — where, for example, you’re hit with a quiz question when your attention drifts from a lecture video — but this fledgling venture also harbors much loftier goals. With help from Google Glass, Voss and his co-founder, Jonathan Yan, hope to create a face-tracking engine that can help people to better recognize and understand the expressions and emotions of others. The tool would be a natural for treating autism and related disorders …
Here is a short promo video of the Sension technology: