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EmotionSense – get in touch with the real you, with a little help from technology [Freeware]


We’re all subject to mood swings, no matter how old we are or where we live. Day to day, moment to moment there are things which continually affect our emotions, equilibrium and state of mind. It’s almost scary how random it all seems. But what if there was a way to work out why we feel like we feel, using nothing more exotic than our phone?

EmotionSense is a research project from the University of Cambridge in the UK, that lets you ‘explore‘ (great word) how your mood relates to the data your phone captures all the time. So for instance the app can compare how socially active you were at any one time by the number of phone calls and/or texts you sent or received, and link that to the feelings you input (e.g. I’m feeling calm and peaceful today).


The user input is minimal, since most of the work is done by the software, which constantly logs locations, activity and other aspects which might have a bearing on how you feel at any time. The developers make it plain that they’re not storing any data, and you can log in anonymously if you want to be extra secure, and all the information they collect is numerical (e.g. 1 text sent, 1 call received) rather than identifiable and personal.


The whole thing is based around an ‘Affect Grid’, which you fill out from time to time (the app sends notifications at different times during the day, all optional of course) and which are then correlated with the phone sensors. You have to manually ‘unlock’ these sensors (like microphone, GPS, accelerometer etc) to make sure you’re happy with the level of tracking the app does, but if you go all in, you’ll be pretty well tracked as to your daily activity, and location etc.


It’s a fascinating experiment, and could one day be a huge help in designing optimal workplace practices, leisure and sporting structures and anything else which forms a part of making us what we are.


  • Am I the only one to find this worrisome and a little troubling? I should tell a mobile device how I’m feeling at a given moment and it will try and draw correlations between my feelings and location, sound levels, light, or other hardware sensors… “Wow, look, I visited my mother-in-law on Saturday and my affect grid was way off, how can that be?” I guess I’m confused about the utility of such a tool, and more worried that society feels it’s even needed.

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