Emotional robots: Will we love them or hate them?
By Hazel Muir SUNDAY, 1 February 2009, and 100 million Americans have got only one thing on their minds – the Super Bowl. The Pittsburgh Steelers are poised to battle the Arizona Cardinals in the most popular televised sporting event in the US. In a hotel room in New York, 46 supporters gather to watch the game, munching burgers and downing beers. Nothing strange about that, of course, aside from the machines that are monitoring these sports fans’ every move and every breath they take. The viewers are wearing vests with sensors that monitor their heart rate, movement, breathing and sweat. A market research company has kitted out the party-goers with these sensors to measure their emotional engagement with adverts during commercial breaks. Advertisers pay $3 million for a 30-second slot during the Super Bowl, so they want to be as confident as they can be that their ads are hitting home. And they are willing to pay for the knowledge. “It’s a rapidly growing market – our revenues this year are four times what they were last year,” says Carl Marci, CEO and chief scientist for the company running the experiment, Innerscope Research based in Boston, Massachusetts. “Viewers are wearing vests with sensors that monitor their heart rate, movement, breathing and sweat” Innerscope’s approach is the latest in a wave of ever more sophisticated emotion-sensing technologies. For years,