Belfast Telegraph

QUB graduates developing car that responds to driver's moods

A driver simulation test of the ‘emphatic car’ which will respond and react to the feelings of the driver
A driver simulation test of the ‘emphatic car’ which will respond and react to the feelings of the driver
How the ‘emphatic’ car uses various signals to gauge your mood
Queen’s University psychology graduate Christine Spencer
Queen’s University psychology graduate Daniel Moore
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Queen's University Belfast is bidding to develop "empathic" cars of the future, which will respond and react to the feelings of the driver.

Two Queen's psychology graduates, Christine Spencer and Dr Daniel Moore, have teamed up with technology company Sensum, which specialises in empathic artificial intelligence.

The graduates, who are currently taking part in full-time knowledge transfer partnerships for two years each, worked with Sensum as part of a research project based around the next generation of machines, including cars, and focuses on creating an empathic interface for cars.

This means that the technology within the car will pick up on emotions such as stress and respond appropriately, for example by adjusting climate settings or offering to switch to self-driving mode.

The researchers have been carrying out their "stress" analysis at Sensum's Belfast-based in-house lab for researching human emotion and cognitive states.

They have used an immersive driving simulator with a wide range of sensors that measure physiological changes, facial expressions, voice patterns and more.

They have also explored various driver emotions in a range of scenarios, not just in the laboratory, but also out on the road.

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The aim is to make the transport experience safer and more comfortable and enjoyable.

Dr Moore said: "Empathy is becoming a major step forward for artificial intelligence so our work is contributing to a new generation of smart technology that can interact with people in increasingly personalised and helpful ways".

Ms Spencer added: "When the findings of your research contribute to new products from global business customers it challenges you to design practical experiments and collect robust data. We are exploring new scientific insights for application in real-life scenarios, which is very rewarding."

The projects are supervised by Dr Gary McKeown, senior lecturer in the university's School of Psychology.

He works in a field known as affective computing, which tries to understand the emotional aspects of human life using a combination of psychology and computing.

Dr McKeown said: "The partnership between Sensum and Queen's is an outstanding example of industry and academia collaborating. The trust and productivity we have established over eight years of working together has become a valuable pathway for the commercialisation of scientific knowledge."

Belfast Telegraph