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Brief Published: 21 Dec 2015

Tech Lets Websites Read Emotions

New computer software can read emotions by measuring how fast a person moves their mouse

Researchers at Brigham Young University in the US have developed computer software that can read emotions by measuring how fast a person moves their mouse. The technology gathers and processes thousands of data points from a user's cursor activity to determine how they are feeling.

Developers tested the software by monitoring the mouse movements of study participants they had angered with a timed quiz that purposefully loaded slowly and penalised wrong answers. As they became upset or confused, their mouse motion changed from fluid and gentle to more jagged and surprisingly slow movements.

The technology could help brands identify and fix aspects of their website that may be dissatisfying to consumers. "Traditionally, it has been very difficult to pinpoint when a user becomes frustrated, leading them to not come back to a site," says Jeffrey Jenkins, lead author of the research. "Being able to sense a negative emotional response, we can adjust the website experience to eliminate stress or to offer help."

This ability to understand what a person is feeling is an evolution from many other artificial intelligence (AI) software options, which "learn" consumer habits and preferences based only on information provided.

For more on how AI is growing smarter – learning both cognitive and emotional behaviour patterns to create personalised content – see our reporting from Wired 2015. Brands must appear to act intuitively if they are to remain relevant and for strategies to do this, see Predictive Tech.