#94: Emoticons++

It’s all too easy to misinterpret the emotional tone of an email you are sending or have just received. Today’s invention is an attempt to alleviate this problem.

Everyone who writes email (ie soon everyone on the planet) could be prompted by their computer, at random times throughout the course of say one month, to answer this question: “How are you feeling, right now?”

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If the answer is different from those previously given, a webcam would capture your facial expression (perhaps also asking you to exaggerate your look or to use a face morphing tool for the same purpose).

Your emotional state is correlated with eg your most recent typing and mouse movement behaviour (See eg this research). These data would enable the system to learn something about your mindset on future occasions and automatically inject stored images which mirror it into the current missive.

(Another technique would be to exploit the fact that certain fonts are good at conveying particular moods. Comic Sans, for example is so unwaveringly jolly it drives large numbers of people crazy. I’d suggest that the local font could be set for each sentence, based on the writer’s detected state of mind. It might even be possible to create new fonts specifically tuned to different, as yet unrepresented feelings: ’emotifonts’).

When composing, you can set the frequency with which images are inserted, as thumbnails, into your message (ie every paragraph or after every string of exclamation marks -or when you resort to CAPITALS). As well as performing a spellcheck before sending, it would become necessary to do a moodcheck of the embedded images too.

Naturally, techie types who regard html email as a heinous aberration, will miss out on this, but they tend not to care too much about whom they might offend anyway ; )

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