BEIJING: The head of Dell’s new research and
development division has said the company could
release a mood-reading application as soon as
2017, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported
Jai Menon told the BBC that Dell Research was
working on software for existing brain activity
headsets that would accurately identify a wearer’s
He added that he believed such tech had uses in
both the office and home.
But some experts are sceptical about the project.
“I think the potential for these things is
astronomical, but we’ve been told this technology
has been five years away for decades,” said Dr
Bernie Hogan, a human-computer interaction
expert from the University of Oxford.
Menon worked at IBM for more than 20 years
before joining Dell
He said a team of two researchers were working
with headsets made by Neurosky and other
manufacturers – which cost between £60 to £120
– to see if they could be used to give a reliable
indication of whether the wearer was happy, sad,
bored or frustrated.
“If I can sense the user is working hard on a task,
an intuitive computer system might then reduce
distractions, such as allowing incoming phone calls
to go directly to voicemail and not letting the user
be disturbed,” he suggested.
“Similarly, if they’ve been concentrating [for] a long
time, maybe it could suggest a break.”
He added that the kit could also be adapted for
gamers – a market Dell already targets with its
“If someone is playing a game and it senses they
are bored, it could ratchet up the level of challenge
“If it senses they are frustrated, maybe it’s time to
offer them a clue about how to proceed.”
Dell is not the only major tech company to
investigate the idea. Microsoft has announced a
series of mood-reading research projects,
including Moodscope — software to infer a user’s
mental state from their smartphone use — and a
“smart bra” that monitors heart and skin activity to
detect stress and emotions.
IBM has tested uses for brain-monitoring gear at
its research base in Hursley, England.
And the video games company Valve also
experimented with building sensors into a
controller that would adapt gameplay to the
player’s body state, but later abandoned the idea.
Menon said the current version of the software
being tested was only able to correctly identify a
headset wearer’s mood about half of the time, but
added he expected the figure would improve.
Dell created a new research division after the
company was taken private last October
“We’re trying to push the accuracy of our software
into the 90 per cent or better range, and if we can
get there then the product starts to make sense.
“If an individual device doesn’t give us that
accuracy then we will also add additional inputs —
a pulse oximeter [to monitor the level of oxygen in
a patient’s blood] or ECG (electrocardiogram — a
heart rhythm monitor) or other readings, to see if
multiple inputs help the software get to the correct
Brain-monitoring hardware is already used to let
people with severe disabilities control computers
and wheelchairs with thought.