Mobiles will analyse speech pattern

Cambridge, August 21:

A software programme for mobile phones that would rate how engrossed a person is in a conversation is being developed by an Indian American researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Jerk-O-Meter, the tool to analyse speech patterns and voice tones on a scale of 0 to 100, is nearing completion, according to lead researcher Anmol Madan who began the project while working on his masters thesis on building cell phones.

“By the end of (August) it will be wholly functional. But for a commercially viable version, it will take another five to six months,” Madan said. “It is technically feasible,” he said, referring to the logic behind measuring speech patterns and voice tones. Madan, who holds a degree in electronics and telecommunications from Pune University, is currently a doctoral candidate at the institute. Jerk-O-Meter uses algorithms to measure levels of stress and empathy in a person’s voice and keeps track of how often someone is speaking. He believes the software would improve interpersonal skills as well as assist telemarketing. “Just having this device can make people more attentive because they know they’re being monitored.”

For now, the software monitors the user’s end of the conversation. If his attention strays, a message pops up warning ‘Don’t be a jerk!’ or ‘Be a little nicer’. A score closer to 100 per cent would prompt, “Wow, you’re a smooth talker.” To test the programme, Madan and his MIT colleagues recruited 10 men and 10 women — all strangers — and brought them into the lab. The researchers paired off the test subjects, with men talking only to men and women talking only to women, and monitored 200 three-minute conversations about randomly

selected topics. After each conversation, the subjects were asked to rate their level of interest

on a scale of one to 10.