Scientific American Article (1996): “Smart Rooms” by Alex Pentland

An article by my Ph.D. Advisor, Alex (Sandy) Pentland describing the Smart Rooms project (also sometimes called the “Looking at People” project, at the MIT Media Laboratory from the early 1990s, in the Scientific American Magazine. My work as a Ph.D. student (1990-1994) and as Research Scientist (1994-1996) was featured in this article.

“In creating computer systems that can identify people and interpret their actions, researchers have come one step closer to building helpful home and work environments”

“Facial expression is almost as important as identity. A teaching program, for example, should know if its students look bored. So once our smart room has found and identified someone’s face, it analyzes the expression. Yet another computer compares the facial motion the camera records with maps depicting the facial motions involved in making various expressions. Each expression, in fact, involves a unique collection of muscle movements. When you smile, you curl the corners of your mouth and lift certain parts of your forehead; when you fake a smile, though, you move only your mouth. In experiments conducted by scientist Irfan A. Essa and me, our system has correctly judged expressions-among a small group of subjects-98 percent of the time.”

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