How to tell if someone is happy or sad on the phone

Boffins have come up with some vital research on what makes different types of people “tick”.

The scientists at the University of Cambridge have developed new mobile phone technology called EmotionSense that can tell if a caller is happy, angry or sad.

Scientists hope to fit the speech recognition system to standard mobile phones and use it to determine emotions – it will also use a GPS tracking system to log where the call is made.

And they’ve already made some pretty major breakthroughs into really getting under the skin of us humans.

The results from the pilot scheme make interesting scientific reading. Among the key revelations are that callers feel happier at home and, er, sadder at work.

To break it down, scientifically, it shows 45 percent of all emotions produced at home are ‘happy’ and 54 percent of emotions at work are ‘sad’.

Meanwhile, people show more ‘intense’ emotions in the evening than they do in the morning.

Of course, this could just be because most people feel too tired in the morning to get overly “intense”. Eating breakfast and getting to work on time is usually enough of an achievement.

Anyway, the Emotion (non) Sense technology has been developed by proper psychologists and computer scientists who say it uses speech recognition software and phone sensors attached to standard smart phones to judge how callers’ emotions are changed by everyday factors.

The sensors analyse voice samples and these are then divided into five categories; happy, sadness, fear, anger or neutral – boredom or passivity would fit into this last category.

After that, they are cross-referenced with the caller’s location, time of day and relationship with the person they’re chatting to.

The pilot itself was set up by giving a group of 18 volunteers some modified Nokia 6210 Navigator phones for 10 days. They were then asked to note down their emotional state in a diary before each call.

Researchers acknowledge that the results might not be completely objective. 

The results were due to be announced at the Association for Computing Machinery’s conference on Ubiquitous Computing in Copenhagen.

Dr Jason Rentfrow, a social psychologist at the University of Cambridge, praised the technology, saying it had the potential to transform the ways in which scientists studied psychological states and social behaviour.

He added: “The methods most often used rely on self-reports, which are subject to a number of limitations – people forget certain details and are sometimes inaccurate at reporting how often they engaged in particular tasks.

“Mobile sensing technology can overcome those limitations, providing unobtrusive and objective information about social behaviours and activities.”

We’re pretty sure that Dr Rentfrow would have been feeling pretty happy with himself when he made these comments – although of course we don’t have any scientific research to back it up.

We have to admit, it left us feeling fairly ‘neutral’.