Research on the XPod, a mobile music player that senses activity and emotion, will be presented at Proceedings of the International Conference on Mobile Technology, Applications and Systems later this year.
The XPod concept is based on the idea of automating much of the interaction between the music player and its user. The XPod project introduces a "smart" music player that learns its user's preferences, emotions and activity, and tailors its music selections accordingly. The device is able to monitor a number of external variables to determine its user's levels of activity, motion and physical states to make an accurate model of the task its user is undertaking at the moment and predict the genre of music would be appropriate. The XPod is relying on its user to train the player as to what music is preferred and under what conditions. After an initial training period, the XPod is able to use its internal algorithms to make an educated selection of the song that would best fit its user's emotion and situation.
(From XPod Mobile Music Player pdf)
According to their concluding remarks, the XPod does a reasonable job of automating music choice for a user's activity.
Science fiction writers have been wrestling with the problem of how computers made of cold steel and silicon can understand human beings and their emotions. For example, take this classic exchange between astronaut Bowman and HAL9000 in Arthur C. Clarke's 2001:A Space Odyssey:
"Hal, switch to manual hibernation control."
"I can tell from your voice harmonics, Dave, that you're badly upset. Why don't you take a stress pill and get some rest?"
"Hal, I am in command of this ship. I order you to release the manual hibernation control."
"I'm sorry, Dave, but in accordance with special subroutine C1435-dash-4, quote, When the crew are dead or incapacitated, the onboard computer must assume control, unquote. I must, therefore, overrule your authority, since you are not in any condition to exercise it intelligently."
"Hal," said Bowman, now speaking with an icy calm. "I am not incapacitated. Unless you obey my instructions, I shall be forced to disconnect you." (Read more about HAL-9000.)
In this example, perhaps if HAL had suggested a relaxing track from Bowman's iTunes library, rather than a stress pill, the whole movie might have turned out differently.
You might also be interested in testing the human emotional responses of politicians or GRACE - the polite robot. Read more here and here; via pasta and vinegar.
(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction.)