Woman with facial recognition software
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The science of smiling

Computers may be able to read human emotions in the very near future, according to the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Affective Computing Research Group is working on computers that can read facial expressions and track basic states like confusion, liking or disliking. Wearable devices, such as electronic bracelets, can detect stress or excitement by measuring minimal changes in the sweat level.

"Emotion measurement technology will be soon ubiquitous," says research scientist Rana El Kaliouby. "It will allow people to communicate in new different ways. It's a kind of very sophisticated version of the 'Like' button on Facebook."

The applications of this technology are wide ranging. Medically, it could help people with autism spectrum disorders to read emotions; commercially, it could be used to evaluate ads by tracking viewers' emotional response. Developers also say it could have important implications for social movements like the Egyptian revolution.

The research group, which is based out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, showed the BBC how these machines work and why they'll play a large role in the future.

Produced by Anna Bressanin. Camera by Ilya Shnitser

Additional photographs courtesy Getty Images