ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Poppy Crum - Neuroscientist, technologist
Poppy Crum builds technologies that best leverage human physiology to enhance our experiences and how we interact with the world.

Why you should listen

Poppy Crum is dedicated to the development of immersive technologies that leverage human physiology and perceptual realities to enhance our experiences and interactions in the world. She has advanced a mission to democratize the way people of all abilities benefit from sensory technologies -- and how effectively technology communicates back to each of us. She believes the power of intelligent technologies is only realized with dynamic optimization and learning of as much of our personal and contextual data as possible.

Crum is chief scientist at Dolby Laboratories, leading the company's integration of neuroscience and sensory data science into its entertainment, communication and future technologies. She is also adjunct professor at Stanford University, where her work focuses on the impact and feedback potential of gaming and immersive environments, such as augmented and virtual reality, on neuroplasticity and learning. She has been recognized with the Advanced Imaging Society's Distinguished Leadership Award and the Consumer Technology Association's Technology and Standards Achievement Award for work towards the introduction of affordable, over-the-counter hearing-aid devices, and she is a fellow of the Audio Engineering Society. She has also been named to Billboard Magazine's 100 most influential female executives in the music industry. Prior to joining Dolby Laboratories, Crum was Research Faculty in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

More profile about the speaker
Poppy Crum | Speaker | TED.com
TED2018

Poppy Crum: Technology that knows what you're feeling

Filmed:
1,589,033 views

What happens when technology knows more about us than we do? Poppy Crum studies how we express emotions -- and she suggests the end of the poker face is near, as new tech makes it easy to see the signals that give away how we're feeling. In a talk and demo, she shows how "empathetic technology" can read physical signals like body temperature and the chemical composition of our breath to inform on our emotional state. For better or for worse. "If we recognize the power of becoming technological empaths, we get this opportunity where technology can help us bridge the emotional and cognitive divide," Crum says.
- Neuroscientist, technologist
Poppy Crum builds technologies that best leverage human physiology to enhance our experiences and how we interact with the world. Full bio

Double-click the English transcript below to play the video.

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What happens when technology
knows more about us than we do?
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A computer now can detect
our slightest facial microexpressions
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and be able to tell the difference
between a real smile and a fake one.
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That's only the beginning.
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Technology has become
incredibly intelligent
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and already knows a lot
about our internal states.
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And whether we like it or not,
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we already are sharing
parts of our inner lives
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that's out of our control.
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That seems like a problem,
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because a lot of us like to keep
what's going on inside
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from what people actually see.
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We want to have agency
over what we share and what we don't.
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We all like to have a poker face.
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But I'm here to tell you
that I think that's a thing of the past.
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And while that might sound scary,
it's not necessarily a bad thing.
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I've spent a lot of time
studying the circuits in the brain
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that create the unique perceptual
realities that we each have.
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And now I bring that together
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with the capabilities
of current technology
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to create new technology
that does make us better,
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feel more, connect more.
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And I believe to do that,
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we have to be OK
losing some of our agency.
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With some animals, it's really amazing,
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and we get to see into
their internal experiences.
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We get this upfront look
at the mechanistic interaction
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between how they respond
to the world around them
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and the state of their biological systems.
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This is where evolutionary pressures
like eating, mating
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and making sure we don't get eaten
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drive deterministic behavioral responses
to information in the world.
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And we get to see into this window,
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into their internal states
and their biological experiences.
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It's really pretty cool.
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Now, stay with me for a moment --
I'm a violinist, not a singer.
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But the spider's already
given me a critical review.
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(Video) (Singing in a low pitch)
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(Singing in a middle pitch)
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(Singing in a high pitch)
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(Singing in a low pitch)
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(Singing in a middle pitch)
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(Singing in a high pitch)
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(Laughter)
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Poppy Crum: It turns out, some spiders
tune their webs like violins
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to resonate with certain sounds.
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And likely, the harmonics
of my voice as it went higher
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coupled with how loud I was singing
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recreated either the predatory call
of an echolocating bat or a bird,
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and the spider did what it should.
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It predictively told me to bug off.
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I love this.
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The spider's responding
to its external world
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in a way that we get to see and know
what's happening to its internal world.
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Biology is controlling
the spider's response;
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it's wearing its internal
state on its sleeve.
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But us, humans --
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we're different.
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We like to think we have cognitive control
over what people see, know and understand
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about our internal states --
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our emotions, our insecurities,
our bluffs, our trials and tribulations --
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and how we respond.
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We get to have our poker face.
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Or maybe we don't.
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Try this with me.
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Your eye responds
to how hard your brain is working.
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The response you're about to see
is driven entirely by mental effort
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and has nothing to do
with changes in lighting.
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We know this from neuroscience.
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I promise, your eyes are doing
the same thing as the subject in our lab,
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whether you want them to or not.
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At first, you'll hear some voices.
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Try and understand them
and keep watching the eye in front of you.
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It's going to be hard at first,
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one should drop out,
and it should get really easy.
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You're going to see the change in effort
in the diameter of the pupil.
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(Video) (Two overlapping voices talking)
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(Single voice) Intelligent technology
depends on personal data.
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(Two overlapping voices talking)
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(Single voice) Intelligent technology
depends on personal data.
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PC: Your pupil doesn't lie.
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Your eye gives away your poker face.
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When your brain's having to work harder,
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your autonomic nervous system
drives your pupil to dilate.
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When it's not, it contracts.
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When I take away one of the voices,
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the cognitive effort
to understand the talkers
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gets a lot easier.
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I could have put the two voices
in different spatial locations,
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I could have made one louder.
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You would have seen the same thing.
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We might think we have more agency
over the reveal of our internal state
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than that spider,
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but maybe we don't.
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Today's technology is starting
to make it really easy
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to see the signals and tells
that give us away.
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The amalgamation of sensors
paired with machine learning
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on us, around us and in our environments,
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is a lot more than cameras and microphones
tracking our external actions.
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Our bodies radiate our stories
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from changes in the temperature
of our physiology.
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We can look at these
as infrared thermal images
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showing up behind me,
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where reds are hotter
and blues are cooler.
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The dynamic signature
of our thermal response
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gives away our changes in stress,
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how hard our brain is working,
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whether we're paying attention
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and engaged in the conversation
we might be having
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and even whether we're experiencing
a picture of fire as if it were real.
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We can actually see
people give off heat on their cheeks
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in response to an image of flame.
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But aside from giving away
our poker bluffs,
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what if dimensions of data
from someone's thermal response
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gave away a glow
of interpersonal interest?
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Tracking the honesty of feelings
in someone's thermal image
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might be a new part of how
we fall in love and see attraction.
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Our technology can listen,
develop insights and make predictions
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about our mental and physical health
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just by analyzing the timing dynamics
of our speech and language
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picked up by microphones.
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Groups have shown that changes
in the statistics of our language
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paired with machine learning
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can predict the likelihood
someone will develop psychosis.
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I'm going to take it a step further
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and look at linguistic changes
and changes in our voice
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that show up with a lot
of different conditions.
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Dementia, diabetes can alter
the spectral coloration of our voice.
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Changes in our language
associated with Alzheimer's
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can sometimes show up more
than 10 years before clinical diagnosis.
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What we say and how we say it
tells a much richer story
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than we used to think.
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And devices we already have in our homes
could, if we let them,
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give us invaluable insight back.
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The chemical composition of our breath
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gives away our feelings.
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There's a dynamic mixture of acetone,
isoprene and carbon dioxide
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that changes when our heart speeds up,
when our muscles tense,
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and all without any obvious change
in our behaviors.
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Alright, I want you to watch
this clip with me.
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Some things might be going on
on the side screens,
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but try and focus on
the image in the front
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and the man at the window.
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(Eerie music)
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(Woman screams)
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PC: Sorry about that.
I needed to get a reaction.
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(Laughter)
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I'm actually tracking the carbon dioxide
you exhale in the room right now.
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We've installed tubes
throughout the theater,
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lower to the ground,
because CO2 is heavier than air.
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But they're connected
to a device in the back
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that lets us measure, in real time,
with high precision,
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the continuous differential
concentration of CO2.
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The clouds on the sides are actually
the real-time data visualization
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of the density of our CO2.
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You might still see
a patch of red on the screen,
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because we're showing increases
with larger colored clouds,
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larger colored areas of red.
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And that's the point
where a lot of us jumped.
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It's our collective suspense
driving a change in carbon dioxide.
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Alright, now, watch this
with me one more time.
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(Cheerful music)
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(Woman laughs)
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PC: You knew it was coming.
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But it's a lot different
when we changed the creator's intent.
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Changing the music and the sound effects
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completely alter the emotional
impact of that scene.
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And we can see it in our breath.
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Suspense, fear, joy
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all show up as reproducible,
visually identifiable moments.
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We broadcast a chemical signature
of our emotions.
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It is the end of the poker face.
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Our spaces, our technology
will know what we're feeling.
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We will know more about each other
than we ever have.
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We get a chance to reach in and connect
to the experience and sentiments
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that are fundamental to us as humans
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in our senses, emotionally and socially.
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I believe it is the era of the empath.
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And we are enabling the capabilities
that true technological partners can bring
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to how we connect with each other
and with our technology.
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If we recognize the power
of becoming technological empaths,
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we get this opportunity
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where technology can help us bridge
the emotional and cognitive divide.
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And in that way, we get to change
how we tell our stories.
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We can enable a better future
for technologies like augmented reality
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to extend our own agency
and connect us at a much deeper level.
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Imagine a high school counselor
being able to realize
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that an outwardly cheery student
really was having a deeply hard time,
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where reaching out can make
a crucial, positive difference.
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Or authorities, being able
to know the difference
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between someone having
a mental health crisis
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and a different type of aggression,
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and responding accordingly.
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Or an artist, knowing
the direct impact of their work.
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Leo Tolstoy defined his perspective of art
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by whether what the creator intended
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was experienced by the person
on the other end.
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Today's artists can know
what we're feeling.
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But regardless of whether
it's art or human connection,
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today's technologies
will know and can know
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what we're experiencing on the other side,
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and this means we can be
closer and more authentic.
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But I realize a lot of us
have a really hard time
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with the idea of sharing our data,
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and especially the idea
that people know things about us
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that we didn't actively choose to share.
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Anytime we talk to someone,
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look at someone
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or choose not to look,
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data is exchanged, given away,
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that people use to learn,
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make decisions about
their lives and about ours.
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I'm not looking to create a world
where our inner lives are ripped open
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and our personal data
and our privacy given away
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to people and entities
where we don't want to see it go.
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But I am looking to create a world
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where we can care about
each other more effectively,
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we can know more about when
someone is feeling something
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that we ought to pay attention to.
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And we can have richer experiences
from our technology.
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Any technology
can be used for good or bad.
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Transparency to engagement
and effective regulation
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are absolutely critical
to building the trust for any of this.
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But the benefits that "empathetic
technology" can bring to our lives
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are worth solving the problems
that make us uncomfortable.
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And if we don't, there are
too many opportunities and feelings
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we're going to be missing out on.
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Thank you.
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(Applause)
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ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Poppy Crum - Neuroscientist, technologist
Poppy Crum builds technologies that best leverage human physiology to enhance our experiences and how we interact with the world.

Why you should listen

Poppy Crum is dedicated to the development of immersive technologies that leverage human physiology and perceptual realities to enhance our experiences and interactions in the world. She has advanced a mission to democratize the way people of all abilities benefit from sensory technologies -- and how effectively technology communicates back to each of us. She believes the power of intelligent technologies is only realized with dynamic optimization and learning of as much of our personal and contextual data as possible.

Crum is chief scientist at Dolby Laboratories, leading the company's integration of neuroscience and sensory data science into its entertainment, communication and future technologies. She is also adjunct professor at Stanford University, where her work focuses on the impact and feedback potential of gaming and immersive environments, such as augmented and virtual reality, on neuroplasticity and learning. She has been recognized with the Advanced Imaging Society's Distinguished Leadership Award and the Consumer Technology Association's Technology and Standards Achievement Award for work towards the introduction of affordable, over-the-counter hearing-aid devices, and she is a fellow of the Audio Engineering Society. She has also been named to Billboard Magazine's 100 most influential female executives in the music industry. Prior to joining Dolby Laboratories, Crum was Research Faculty in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

More profile about the speaker
Poppy Crum | Speaker | TED.com