08. 13. 2005
Jerk-o-meter for cell phones
It's really not that difficult to tell when someone isn't paying attention to what you're saying. Hearing snoring on the other end, or that auto pilot "uh huh" with a giggle when you've told someone really bad news are dead giveaways, but Jerk-o-meter software will help those who can't decipher the signs that it's time to hang up.
Anmol Madan developed the software as part of his thesis at MIT. The Linux program algorithmically analyzes both sides of a conversation and checks for signs of stress and empathy. Your "engagement" in the conversation is then rated from 0% to 100%. As your own level drops, a voice prompt would warn you, "be a little nicer now!" Or if the interest is waning on the other side the voice will say, "this person is acting like a jerk, do you want to hang up?"
In a small test with 20 human subjects rating their interest in conversations they'd had with strangers, the Jerk-o-meter got it right about 80% of the time. One interesting result from the survey- men and women seem to have different reasons for being more or less interested in a conversation. Men were much more influenced by the topic being discussed while women seemed to care more about who they were talking to and the tone of the chat. So guys...it's not that we don't care about what you're talking about, if we're offering perfunctory "yeah"s we're probably just not that interested in you! But Jerk-o-meter could train one to be a little more sensitive or help telemarketers warm you up so you'll stay on the phone.
Madan and other MIT researchers are still working on Jerk-o-meter and they hope to have something commercially available for cell phones by next year.