View Full Version : "You May Soon Know if You’re Hogging the Discussion": upcoming speech style evaluator

10-26-08, 07:57 AM
You May Soon Know if You’re Hogging the Discussion
Rick Friedman for The New York Times

Dr. Alex Pentland and researchers with devices they used to study the various signals and patterns of conversation.

Published: October 25, 2008

PEOPLE who want to improve their communication skills may one day have an unusual helper: software programs that analyze the tone, turn-taking behavior and other qualities of a conversation. The programs would then tell the speakers whether they tend to interrupt others, for example, or whether they dominate meetings with monologues, or appear inattentive when others are talking.

The inventor of this technology is Alex Pentland of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has developed cellphone-like gadgets to listen to people as they chat, and computer programs that sift through these conversational cadences, studying communication signals that lie beneath the words.

If commercialized, such tools could help users better handle many subtleties of face-to-face and group interactions — or at least stop hogging the show at committee meetings.

With the help of his students, Dr. Pentland, a professor of media arts and sciences at M.I.T., has been equipping people in banks, universities and other places with customized smartphones or thin badges packed with sensors that they wear for days or even months. As these people talk with one another, the sensors collect data on the timing, energy and variability of their speech...

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