Monday, May 31, 2010


While surfing the wrong parts of the internet again, I've stumbled into some research being done for lifesize sex dolls. In case anyone is still in the clear, please make yourself feel at home here in the gutter:

So these things are slowly gaining the ability to walk/talk in very rudimentary, creepy style, still very much stuck within the uncanny valley. Safely assuming that technology for voice recognition, speech synthesis, emotion detection, facial replication, etc. progress at a realistic rate, at some point we'll have something convincing enough that it will start to create quite a few social problems.

On a somewhat related note, here's this video from a while back showing research being done in human-humanoid interaction. Since things will progress, imagine the humanoid as a sexy fembot and the human with sleek, unobtrusive HUD glasses.

Innovation Blues

So I attended this "TechCrunch: Disrupt" event last week by agreeing to work for free in exchange for a ticket (usually $3k or something ridiculous).


Out of 100 start ups, I'd say 70% were something completely mundane: "so with youtube and other current video hosting sites, you're required to convert to certain formats and limit your videos to a certain length- us? No limits."

27%, including the company I was working for, were relatively interesting but at least a year late and in no way revolutionary- basically just slightly more efficient combinations of pre-existing Ideas: "alright, this is like youtube but it's mobile, geotagged and social." etc.

The remaining three companies were actually interesting. One was called uJam, which is some sort of app where you can sing a song and then hear it orchestrated with background music. When I stumbled upon their exhibit I was actually a little pissed because I felt like they had stolen my idea from a while ago: "In another situation we're in a group hanging out on the street. Our devices know we're together talking. Suddenly one of the more inebriated amongst us breaks out into song- a drunken rendition of the latest top 40 hit. His device quickly runs a song recognition on what he's singing to identify a possible match, based on what it knows he's listened to lately and in the past [remember, it's hearing what he hears on a daily basis, keeping track the whole time]. Before he's hit the second chorus, it's figured out that he's quoting the latest T-Pain song, although a bit too slow, out of tune and in a different key. Nonetheless, like any good accompanist, the machine tries to follow his singing- it tries to make him sound as good as possible. To accomplish this, it transposes into the tempo and key he's set.
As this happens, everyone in the group hears an accompanying melody fade into what he's singing in real time. Like a live musical or a constant karaoke machine, this device adds acoustic background to whatever it hears. Life becomes a movie as simply hanging out with friends takes on cinematic effects. "

But apparently Bill Gates had said it over a decade ago:"And make no mistake, there will be great applications of all kinds on the Internet - much better and far more plentiful than the ones available today. Many of tomorrow's net applications will be purely for fun, as they are today. ... You might hum a little tune of your own into a microphone and then play it back to hear what it could sound like if it were orchestrated or performed by a rock group."

Bill Gates - The Road Ahead, 1996

and of course people have been dreaming about some sort of "magic harmonizer machine" for ages now, so...

"What has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun"

Ecclesiastes 1:9

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Emotion Detection Through Voice Making Progress

Computer Software Decodes Emotions Over the Phone

from Discovery News
  • A company called eXaudios has developed software that detects emotions during a phone call.
  • The program is currently used by companies to assist customer service agents.
  • The versatile software could even soon diagnose Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia and even cancer."

As the computer becomes better at recognizing our moods, it becomes better at positively or negatively changing them. From my post about the digital secretary which I think really benefits from being placed in the context of this software:

"But let's go further and a little bit darker. If we improve CGI and voice simulation, there will be no reason not to have this secretary actually appear as a simulated friend- one who knows what will make you happy depending on your mood, one who won't mind giving you perpetually undivided attention. If it's linked to your cellphone, this friend could also fill you in on things and give you advice:

"you know you seem a little down today- why not try calling Robert or Jessica- you haven't seen them in a while, and last time you hung out you all had a great time." (it was listening to the quality of your voices and watching everyone's facial expressions)

you: "I dunno, what about Eryka, she seems pretty cool... what are the chances that she's into me?"

computer: "approximately 3,720 to 1"

you: "damn"

Even further and much darker, what if we allowed our secretaries to communicate with one another, say even temporarily like at a party. They would watch everyone's interactions, occasionally chiming in to suggest mingling (think a futuristic version of facebook suggesting that we help people become more social). Toward the end of the night we could begin some sort of Game Theory algorithm where each of the secretary agents would trade data until coming up with a "greatest possible universal happiness" formula which would pair those of us wanting to go home or to the next party with someone with each other in the most efficient way. And even if we don't agree to trade data, people will each use their own gathered information to see who they might have a shot with as things are winding down. Of course young people will also learn how to fool the system (like learning to pass a lie detector test) which would have certain advantages. As computer-aided social interaction becomes the norm, how will everything change?"