Do you fidget and move your legs when working with your computer? Most people do and it turns out these movements can reveal how interested you are in what you’re seeing on the screen.
Not just your employer or spouse, even computers programmed to monitor people’s body language can tell whether they are bored or not, says a study.
Body-language expert Dr Harry Witchel from University of Sussex found that by measuring a person’s movements as they use a computer, it is possible to judge their level of interest.
This can be done by monitoring whether they display the tiny movements that people usually constantly exhibit, known as non-instrumental movements.
According to Dr Witchel, if someone is absorbed in what they are watching or doing, there is a decrease in these involuntary movements.
“Our study showed that when someone is really highly engaged in what they’re doing, they suppress these tiny involuntary movements. It’s the same as when a small child, who is normally constantly on the go, stares gaping at cartoons on the television without moving a muscle,” Dr Witchel explained.
The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, could have a significant impact on the development of artificial intelligence (AI).
“Being able to ‘read’ a person’s interest in a computer program could bring real benefits to future digital learning, making it a much more two-way process,” the author added.
In the study, 27 participants were faced with three-minute computer sessions that ranged from fascinating games to tedious readings from European Union (EU) banking regulations.
At the same time, video motion tracking technology was used to measure their movements.
For two comparable reading tasks, the one that was most engaging resulted in a 42% reduction in non-instrumental movement.
“The findings can also help us create more empathetic companion robots which may sound very ‘sci fi’ but are becoming a realistic possibility within our lifetimes,” Dr Witchel noted.
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