The app that knows what makes you happy

8th May 2013

A new app for smartphones known as “EmotionSense” has been developed by a team at Cambridge University, with the apparent ability to track the user’s moods.

The software tracks a week of usage data and tests it against the user’s emotional state.  It collects information about the location of the user, how noisy the environment is, and whom they are interacting with.

According to the app’s official website, the emotional state data is gathered through a collection of surveys and social psychology experiments.  The social scientists can define which sensor data they would like to collect and what questions are featured on the surveys, along with the conditions that determine when a survey is used (i.e. where the user is and the environment etc.).

Users will also be able to customise the app so that it only sends surveys when the user states they would be available to answer them.   Everything would be updated remotely so that experiments can be adapted and changed by the social scientists, as their study is ongoing.

An axis grid system is displayed for users to mark exactly how they are feeling at that current time on that current day.  The app will then match the mood to what they are doing – so for example it might gather that you are grumpy when getting up in the morning and starting your commute to work, or tired when you leave work at the end of the day.

The main goal of the app is for the team at Cambridge is to build a set of libraries which allow developers to build their own new apps that use sensor data gathered from smartphones, send context-based notifications, and collect survey responses.  These developers would become EPSRC Ubhave Developers.

Currently the Cambridge team is a mixture of older and younger generations all with different skills and looking to gain different things from the project.  It currently comprises of Cecilia Mascolo (Reader in Mobile Systems), Jason Rentfrow (Senior Lecturer in Social and Developmental Psychology), Neal Lathia (Research Associate), Kiran Rachuri (PhD Student, Computer Laboratory), and Mirco Musolesi (Senior Lecturer, Computer Science, University of Birmingham).

EmotionSense will come free on Android devices, and some believe it could be an important tool to complement therapy treatments. Users would have to give explicit permission for use of their data by researchers before using the app. Other versions for other smartphone platforms are currently in development to reach a much wider audience and therefore gain a more accurate picture of human emotional behaviour.