August 13, 2005

The "Jerk-O-Meter" may hold the answer

Only really huge socially inept nerds would need this ...

Ever wonder if that spouse, friend or co-worker on the other end of the phone is really paying attention? The "Jerk-O-Meter" may hold the answer.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing software for cell phones that would analyze speech patterns and voice tones to rate people -- on a scale of 0 to 100 percent -- on how engaged they are in a conversation.

Anmol Madan, who led the project while he pursued a master's degree at MIT, sees the Jerk-O-Meter as a tool for improving relationships, not ending them. Or it might assist telephone sales and marketing efforts.

"Think of a situation where you could actually prevent an argument," he said. "Just having this device can make people more attentive because they know they're being monitored."

The program, which Madan said is nearing completion, uses mathematical algorithms to measure levels of stress and empathy in a person's voice. It also keeps track of how often someone is speaking.

I love technology, but come on --- I think interpersonal skills, not software is the answer here. What are you going to do it you aren't on the phone? Just imagine: "sorry hunny I didn't know you weren't upset, I didn't have the Kerk-O-Meter --- I just assumed you were fine."

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