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The Baby Emotion Detector: can a computer program analyze a baby's cry?

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February 25, 2010

Have Japanese researchers discovered how to analyze a baby's cry?  Image: Flickr, memekode...

Have Japanese researchers discovered how to analyze a baby's cry? Image: Flickr, memekode's photostream

New parents discover quite quickly how loudly their newborn can scream when they’re not happy. But working out the cause of the problem is unfortunately pretty much a guessing game. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a device that could tell you exactly what was wrong with your baby? It might not be as preposterous as it sounds - Japanese scientists claim they have developed a statistical computer program that can analyze the differences in a baby's cries. So, future baby monitors could be capable of alerting parents that their child is tired, hungry, needs a diaper change, or is in pain.

In the past, baby emotion analyzers such as the Why Cry Baby Analyzer have been looked at with a degree of skepticism. So what makes this emotion analyzing program any different to those in devices that are currently available? Well, instead of just using information from one source, for example - the crying pattern, the Japanese researchers used three sources of information in order to classify various infant cries - sound-pattern recognition, audio spectra and the parents’ confirmation of the baby’s emotional state.

The researchers used a sound pattern method that provided them with statistical information about the frequency of the cries and the power function of the audio spectrum. They then used the differences in the various recordings of the audio spectra and correlated them with the parents’ opinion of the baby’s state of mind.

The tests also included the recording of crying babies suffering from a painful genetic disorder. It was discovered that there was an obvious difference between pained cries and other cries. They had a 100% success rate in a test that classified the difference between pained cries and “normal” cries.

The Japanese research has recently been published in the International Journal of Biometrics. The research approach was based on kansei engineering which aims to "measure" feelings and emotions. It was invented in the 1970s by Professor Mitsuo Nagamachi, Dean of Hiroshima International University. The researchers acknowledge that the main problem with determining and classifying the emotional state of a baby is that the child can not verbalize why they are crying.

What do you think? Do you think a computer program can recognize what is wrong with your baby or will you stick to the tried and true method of elimination – if they’re not tired or hungry, it’s time to change a diaper?

Image credit: memekode / CC BY 2.0.

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