Lie detector kit
Source: Lwp Kommunikacio, Flikr

Microsoft’s recent blog post revealed a number of advancements in VR and sensing technology, but hidden among it was some ongoing research. The Redmond giant is looking into the use of light sensing technology for heart rate, temperature, and mood detection.

The company believes this will “reveal stress and mood or indicate if subjects are lying.” The plan is to make such a tool publically available upon completion.

“The project is very interesting in that it tries to estimate bio-signals for more efficient face-to-face communications,” said Tao Mei, senior researcher at Microsoft Research. “The Principal Investigator (PI) proposed to use active imaging, which is entirely non-contact and noninvasive, to solve this problem with a novel idea by analyzing the constructed thermal and depth images in an indoor active image sensing system.”

The technology comes via a collaboration between Microsoft’s research division and Japan’s Institute of Informatics. The two call it “active light sensing,” and have had success in controlled environments.

The Moral Dilemma

While this technology could assist in AR and VR technologies, there’s also the question of more questionable applications. While exact details are not forthcoming, some are concerned about use by oppressive regimes.

For example, advances in machine learning could result could allow cameras to classify groups of people by mood or heart rate. It may also have use in courts, law enforcement, and surveillance scenarios.

All of that could add up to significant control over a populace, especially if the technology evolves for use in outdoor scenarios. Though it’s hard to tell how much of this is plausible, it’s definitely an indication that Microsoft should approach such technology with caution.

For now, the company is excited about what the Japan-Redmond collaboration means for AI.

“I am looking forward to seeing continuous progress and achievements from this collaboration,” says Microsoft Asia research program manager Noboru Sean Kuno. “We hope more researchers explore this area to expand the frontier of Virtual Reality technologies and realize Princess Leia’s holographic messaging in future.”