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This Wearable Could Help Manage Social Anxiety
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This Wearable Could Help Manage Social Anxiety

Picture of Esme Benjamin
Wellness Editor
Updated: 27 February 2017
Social anxiety — a fear of being judged negatively by others in social interactions — is America’s third largest mental health issue, after depression and alcohol addiction. Now, new AI technology might just hold the key to overcoming, or at least managing, the phobia.

Developers, Mohammad Ghassemi and Tuka Al Hanai, combined a Samsung Simband — a health wearable that uses multiple sensors to track activity level, heart rate, skin temperature, and blood pressure — with an AI system that studies conversational cues.

By analyzing the intricacies of speech, including pitch, tone, energy and vocabulary, and labeling it either ‘happy’, ‘sad,’ or ‘neutral’, it provides a play-by-play overview of the interaction. The wearer could then use that data to gain insight into which segments of the conversation were positive in tone, adjusting their behavior accordingly.

Ghassemi, who thinks his invention could also help people with Asperger’s, told Newsweek: “Technology has done a lot to connect people but even though it helps us communicate, it hasn’t done much to improve those communications.”

If the technology is integrated with smart watches in the future, as the creators hope, it could help everybody become more socially adept. Imagine having data that indicates how much you and your date enjoyed each other’s company, or how well you responded to tricky questions at a job interview.

On the flip side, it has the potential to encourage relentless self-critiquing. Perhaps having the option to relive and pick apart every personal interaction — like the episode of Black Mirror, The Entire History of You — might be more complex, and not entirely positive, for some of us.