Microsoft’s HoloLens is one of the most exciting products in the technology world right now.
Business Insider’s tech editor Matt Rosoff tried it earlier this year: He’s convinced “personal computing is on the verge of a major change.”
The HoloLens is an augmented reality headset, meaning it projects virtual or digital images on top of the real world, like layers. In addition, you can interact with these 3D objects. It’s something you really need to see to understand the possible applications. The GIFs above and below are pretty spot-on.
When Microsoft revealed the HoloLens in January, it mostly showed how you can use it to create and interact with 3D objects. But a new patent published by the US Patent and Trademark Office Tuesday shows Microsoft might have another big feature in mind for its futuristic headset: the ability to read and analyse the emotions of anyone you’re looking at.
To be clear, this is basically a computerised version of what the human brain does.
The patent describes one interesting application for this technology: You’re giving a presentation in a room full of people, and you’re wearing the HoloLens. The augmented reality headset “can interpret visual and audio input, interpret emotional states exhibited by other individuals within a wearer’s field of view, and provide the wearer with feedback regarding the subject’s emotional state.”
“The presenter can utilise the present technology to ascertain feedback regarding the members of the audience to whom the presenter is speaking. The device can interpret changes in user posture, user gestures, audible input levels such as murmurs and or other factors to determine the emotional engagement of the audience.
For example, slouched postures or wandering audience gaze might indicate a lack of interest or attention. This feedback is provided to the presenter while the presenter during the presentation to allow the presenter to let the presenter know how the presenter is doing.”
But this wouldn’t just be for professional use: In its patent, Microsoft explicitly mentions “romantic situations involving a one-on-one relationship between individuals.”
That’s right, Microsoft wants you to be a better casanova through augmented reality.
According to the patent, HoloLens owners would be able to choose which people they get “feedback” for — again, feedback can be stuff like expressions and postures — and it would be able to identify past people you’ve interacted with and retrieve their history from “a database of stored interactions.”
The HoloLens can also be programmed for certain social scenarios: “Social situation,” “business situation,” “party,” “wedding,” “meeting,” and “presentation,” are all settings you can choose from.
Depending on the social scenario, the HoloLens can give you different kinds of feedback: If you’re at a party, maybe you want to scan the room for people you know, and get information about them. If you’re giving a presentation, maybe you want the HoloLens to analyse the emotions of the room, rather than give you information about the people you already know.
There’s a lot of technology needed to pull off this kind of emotion detection: The HoloLens uses an eye tracking engine that understands what you’re looking at, and an image and audio processing engine that “recognises emotional states in subjects by comparing detected sensor input against databases of human/primate gestures/expressions, posture, and speech,” and provides feedback to the wearer.
Of course, this is just a patent, and companies like Microsoft and Apple are known to file hundreds of patents they never use in any actual products. But this ability to read emotions could be particularly useful for wearers: It has strategic value as a tool to help people remember faces and present themselves in front of others. It could even help those with autism recognise certain behaviours and get the feedback they need to shine in social situations.
There are endless applications for this kind of technology.
Microsoft lists a sole inventor for this HoloLens patent: Robert Jerauld, currently an executive producer at Microsoft Game Studios and previously a producer at Square Enix America, maker of the popular “Dragon Quest” series.
Check out the full patent here.
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