Safer Driving With “Emotion Detectors”

Technology that identifies the seven universal emotions — fear, anger, joy, sadness, disgust, surprise, and suspicion – can help make driving safer, according to a study done at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

A release from EPFL notes that Irritation in particular can make drivers more aggressive and less attentive. The EPFL researchers, in collaboration with PSA Peugeot Citroën, have developed an on-board emotion detector based on the analysis of facial expressions. Tests carried out using a prototype indicate that the idea could have promising applications.

Measuring emotions within the confines of a car isn’t easy. The solution explored by scientists in EPFL’s Signal Processing 5 Laboratory uses an infrared camera placed behind the steering wheel to capture drivers’ facial expressions.

To simplify the task at this stage of the project, Hua Gao and Anil Yüce, who spearheaded the research, chose to track only two expressions: anger and disgust, whose manifestations are similar to those of anger.

Two phases of tests were carried out. First, the system “learned” to identify the two emotions using a series of photos of subjects expressing them. Then the same exercise was carried out using videos. The images were taken both in an office setting as well as in real life situations, in a car that was made available for the project.

The rapidity with which the comparison between filmed images and thus detection could be carried out depended on the analysis methods used. But overall, the system worked well and irritation could be accurately detected in the majority of cases. When the test failed, the cause was usually that this state is variable from individual to individual. This fact is where the difficulty will always lie, given the diversity of how we express anger. Additional research aims to explore updating the system in real-time to complement the static database.

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