Social Computing Drives Emerging Applications

Experts at MIT's Emerging Technologies Conference agreed that social networks and applications that gauge personal behavior will help create a future where people will communicate as never before.

CAMBRIDGE—Would you like to know if the person on the other end of your mobile phone conversation is lying to you?

You might be surprised to know that the technology needed to determine such a thing is already being tested on humans, and thats just the beginning, according to the people most closely involved with creating so-called social computing applications.

Gathered Wednesday at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologys Emerging Technologies Conference, a panel of experts working on such tools painted a picture of a science fiction future where consumers will have new options for interacting with other people and devices will automate an increasing variety of intrapersonal communications.

Social computing, or technologies aimed at building virtual models of complex human interactions or behaviors, already influence the manner in which people meet, share information, do business and organize their lifestyles.

However, beyond existing applications such as social networking sites that focus on dating or maintaining business contacts, the tools may someday be used to help measure basic human characteristics such as honesty and likeability.

According to Dr. Sandy Pentland, MITs Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, voice recognition software being developed by the university, and others, is already capable of telling you whether a person is misrepresenting their intentions on a phone call, failing to hold an audiences attention or more likely to divorce their spouse.

In fact, in trials conducted in a marriage therapy setting, Pentland said that voice recognition technologies were 90 percent accurate at predicting which couples were destined to fail, based purely on what people said, and how they said it to each other.

"What we want to do is create communications that make you feel more as if youre face-to-face, engaged with another person, even if theyre very far away," said Pentland.

"By engaging in reality mining, or paying attention to patterns of movement, activity or a persons tone of voice, to examine the way people truly feel, we can build better forms of social software."

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about Yahoos service that combines blogging and social networking.

The applications for such social computing technologies are almost without limit, according to the professor.

He contends that everyone from business executives trying to figure out if theyve lost a clients attention to medical professionals looking to detect signs of depression in their patients, will be able to tap into the power of the tools.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead the full story on Social Computing Drives Emerging Applications

/zimages/4/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.