For all those who believe the computing industry is populated by people who are out of touch with the world of emotion, it’s time to think again.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which standardizes many Web technologies, is working on formalizing emotional states in a way that computers can handle. The name of the specification, which in July reached second-draft status, is Emotion Markup Language.
EmotionML combines the rigor of computer programming with the squishiness of human emotion.
That might sound alien to the cold calculating ways of a computer. Let’s face it, compared with most computer interaction, HAL 9000 sounded positively genial in “2001: A Space Odyssey” when he said, “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
But the Multimodal Interaction Working Group that’s overseeing creation of the technology really does want to marry the two worlds. Some of the work is designed to provide a more sophisticated alternative to smiley faces and other emoticons for people communicating with other people. It’s also geared to improve communications between people and computers.
“Today’s computers force humans to adapt to them, which causes more and more difficulties to most people,” said Marc Schroeder, editor of the EmotionML standard under development. “We have adapted to the ‘rationality only’ interaction mode that these electronic devices impose on us. Future computers should be able to interact with humans in ways that humans find natural.”