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European expert platform to address measurement of human emotions

Discussing the best ways to measure human feelings and emotions is the aim of a new European expert platform. Results of the platform FEEL EUROPE will help to create the basis for novel research topics, technologies, cooperation and innovations across various applications and industrial branches, believe participants in a new EU-funded project.

In the coming months, more than 30 scientists, engineers and other experts from 10 European countries will not only discuss ways of measuring human emotions, but will also try to envision specific technical applications. However, it is not the intention of the current project to find solutions yet, says Professor Klaus-Peter Hoffmann from the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT) in Germany, who coordinates the project together with Professor Eduardo Fernandez from the University Miguel Hernandez in Elche, Spain.

As a first step, participants will attempt to summarise the scientific state of play and develop visions for the future. These will be published in a White Paper in the course of 2008, Professor Hoffmann explains. 'This could then form the basis for new project ideas in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).' Such projects could investigate novel cognitive technical systems such as human computer interfaces (HCIs), systems for emotional learning or eventually the possibility of equipping robots with the capability to express emotions.

However, feelings and emotions, by definition, are a sensitive area. Hence, the platform will also address gender, diversity and ethical issues, one question being: should all robot systems be able to express emotions? The launch workshop in Germany clearly showed that an emotional distinction between man and robot has to be maintained. 'We thought of children and teenagers: imagine them growing up surrounded by robots that keep smiling while they get a hack on the shin. This could severely inhibit the development of their social competence,' Professor Hoffmann points out.

As feelings and emotions have a physiological impact, there are various measuring methods that can help detect them, such as voice recognition, observation of blood pressure, pulse, breathing or sympathic skin response. However, while 'measuring principles are well known today, and the biological body can be investigated by electrical, magnetic, thermical, mechanical, optical, acoustical and chemical means, new combinations of these methods with novel signal algorithms are needed for the measurement of emotions', the project's vision paper states.

Virginia Mercouri | alfa
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