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Technology Could Enable Computers To 'Read The Minds' Of Users

October 11, 2007 | Chris Payatagool

Tufts_seal.pngTufts University researchers are developing techniques that could allow computers to respond to users' thoughts of frustration -- too much work -- or boredom--too little work. Applying non-invasive and easily portable imaging technology in new ways, they hope to gain real-time insight into the brain's more subtle emotional cues and help provide a more efficient way to get work done.

"New evaluation techniques that monitor user experiences while working with computers are increasingly necessary," said Robert Jacob, computer science professor and researcher. "One moment a user may be bored, and the next moment, the same user may be overwhelmed. Measuring mental workload, frustration and distraction is typically limited to qualitatively observing computer users or to administering surveys after completion of a task, potentially missing valuable insight into the users' changing experiences."

Sergio Fantini, biomedical engineering professor, in conjunction with Jacob's human-computer interaction (HCI) group, is studying functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) technology that uses light to monitor brain blood flow as a proxy for workload stress a user may experience when performing an increasingly difficult task. A $445,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will allow the interdisciplinary team to incorporate real-time biomedical data with machine learning to produce a more in-tune computer user experience.

[via Science Daily]

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