New Technology That Sharpens the Ability to Read Nonverbal Cues

By Phyllis Weiss Haserot 
 
Neuroscience, psychology, and technology often provide wonderful - excuse the pun - mind-boggling applications. A Herman Group Trend Alert reported that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab has developed special glasses that use a built-in camera linked to software to analyze the facial micro-expressions of a person who is talking directly to another person. The research was originally intended to help autistic individuals who might lack the social instincts to recognize a person's emotions during face-to-face conversations.
 
An earpiece that is attached to the glasses whispers into the listener's ear an interpretation of the speaker's emotions. The camera tracks twenty-four "feature points" on the face and analyzes how often the micro-expressions appear and for how long. The data collected is automatically compared with its bank of known expressions.
 

Generational Definitions
Generations are defined by similar formative influences – social, cultural, political, and economic – that exist while individuals of particular birth cohorts are in their adolescent to early adult years. Given that premise, the approximate birth years for each of the four generations currently in the workplace are:
  • Traditionalists: Born between1925 and 1942
  • Baby Boomers: Born between 1943 and 1962
  • Generation X: Born between 1963 and 1978
  • Generation Y/Millennials: Born between 1979 and 1998
Please send your thoughts on generational observations to Phyllis Weiss Haserot at pwhaserot@pdcounsel.com or comment on www.nextgeneration-nextdestination.com. What has caused you to question or think about observed practices and behaviors differently?
MIT researchers Rosalind Picard and Rana el Kaliouby, who calibrated the prototype, found that the average person is only able to correctly interpret 54 percent of the twenty-four expressions on a person's face (as long as the person is not acting). The MIT software did better, identifying 64 percent of expressions. That might not seem like a huge difference, but given technological progress, I suppose we can assume the accuracy will get even better. 
 
Think how MIT's glasses, and similar products and applications, can change how we interact with each other. By reducing the instances of misinterpreted emotions, people can avoid many social disasters and help us better understand each other. Some companies have already implemented the technology with their employees to improve communication with customers.
 
But so much more is possible. Think about using the technology in the courtroom (but there could be potential legal challenges). Think about negotiations. Think about greater transparency in the workplace and between parents and children.
 
So, we are acquiring tech tools to interpret nonverbal cues, but they are not of any use if we are not face-to-face. Texting and other electronic media without a video component will not provide the advantage, a concern I have expressed frequently. Perhaps technology, such as these glasses, will convince the younger generations of the importance of nonverbal communication cues in their work and personal lives.
 
You can read more in the July 2011 issue of New Scientist magazine.
 
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About the author

Phyllis Weiss Haserot is the Cross-Generational Voice and the president of Practice Development Counsel, a business development and organizational effectiveness consulting and coaching firm she founded over twenty years ago. A special focus is on the profitability of improving workplace intergenerational relations as well as transitioning planning for baby boomer senior partners (www.nextgeneration-nextdestination.com). Phyllis is the author of The Rainmaking Machine and The Marketer's Handbook of Tips & Checklists (both Thomson Reuters/West Publishing  2011). pwhaserot@pdcounsel.com. URL: www.pdcounsel.com.

 
© 2011 by Phyllis Weiss Haserot

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