A new smartphone app developed by researchers at Cambridge University is able to use data to detect your level of happiness. The application called ‘EmotionSense’ is available for Android and collects location, noise and social data to judge just how happy you are. The app will follow you through an 8-week ‘life journey’ that is designed to teach you more about yourself and will ultimately, researches say, improve your health and wellbeing. During the 8 weeks you are tasked with unlocking ‘sensors’ – the tasks involve filling out surveys and monitoring activity such as how many calls or texts you make during the day.
It all seems a little far fetched. After all, an app that ‘monitors’ happiness shouldn’t require filling out surveys – or perhaps it registers filling out surveys as something that makes the user inherently sad – either way there are some assumptions that don’t quite add up. Being sociable doesn’t necessarily make someone happy, and judging happiness based on location? Perhaps if you’re lost in the middle of the ocean then it can make certain assumptions about your mental wellbeing; but in general this seems like nonsense.
Now my skepticism may be miss placed, and I should say that I haven’t actually used this app; but if it does turn out to be accurate on any level then my skepticism will soon turn to cynicism as I imagine marketers chomping at the bit to get hold of user happiness data. Happy user? Buy this! Sad user? Buy this (it’ll make you happy)! Forget Facebook privacy concerns, this is something else!
The application is open source meaning that others can develop it further, and plans to release it for other smartphones are underway. But it seems like a long way off before data can be used to accurately judge something so abstract, but who knows, maybe in 20 years time we’ll all be consulting our phones and not a therapist. How sad.