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When Google Glass announced in January that it was ending its Explorer program, it looked like our cyborg future might be in jeopardy. Thankfully, Microsoft has stepped into the void, obtaining a patent for emotion detecting glasses. With an enhanced set of eyes, we may be one step closer to putting ourselves to the fullest possible use, which is all any conscious entity can ever hope to do.
Of course, Microsoft's glasses probably won't transcend the human-computer divide just yet, but they may have important implications for the legal profession.
Microsoft filed its patent for emotion detecting, Internet-connected glasses in 2012 and was awarded it this past week. The glasses can analyze the emotions of any individual or group within their view. They likely will accomplish this through an analysis of posture, gesture, facial expression and speech, among other factors, according to Neuromarketing's Roger Dooley.
Whether Microsoft is planning on pursuing the glass's development is unknown. But if they do, the applications could be widespread. The glasses could be used to help autistic children decode others' emotions, for example, or for TSA agents to see if you're looking extra shifty.
When Google Glass was released, the product was met with praise and fascination. That was followed quickly by concerns about privacy -- and the social skills of certain early adopters. Microsoft's version of wearable computer eyes may raise similar privacy concerns. The extent of those concerns will depend on whether Microsoft includes some of Glass's maligned features, such as the ability to record others without their knowledge.
For the legal profession, the glasses may have major implications. If their emotion detecting capabilities are sophisticated enough, they could be used in everything from depositions, negotiations, and voir dire -- should future rules not limit them. Real time emotion analytics could allow law enforcement to easily detect subtle facial flushing or nervousness, perhaps indicating deceit, for example. Lawyers may use them to see if the tilt in Juror Four's head tilt is a sign of interest, boredom, or annoyance.
Of course, there's no telling how insightful the glasses will be, or if they would ever be superior to a normal individual's ability to pick up on social cues. Until we see further development, we'll be left having to rely on our own, not-yet-fully-computerized minds.
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