North West Wales

'Mind reading' computer research at Bangor University

Tom Christy and Professor Lucy Kuncheva
Image caption Tom Christy's work could mean computers can sense moods

A PhD student is conducting research into "mind reading" computers which identify game players' emotions.

Tom Christy aims to pioneer techniques which could lead to new games where players must control their feelings to go forward in a virtual environment.

Other applications for the "emotional study" application, known as affective computing, could be military training.

Mr Christy, 35, is working closely with Bangor University's schools of electronic engineering and psychology.

The plan is to combine brain wave information collected from a single electrode that sits on the forehead as part of a headset with data such as the wearer's heart rate.

The information will then be sent to a group of programmes that analyses the data independently.

"It will combine already existing biometric detection devices into a lightweight portable system that will be able to perceive and indicate a person's mood and level of stress and anxiety," he said.

Mr Christy has also had talks with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MiT) in Boston, USA, as part of his research.

"I feel this is possible and we've had some early success," he said.

"What we need now is someone to come on board with us," he added.

This could be someone working in computer games, or maybe someone within the film industry to produce DVDs which tailor content according to the viewers' emotions, he said.

Prof Lucy Kuncheva, from Bangor University, said the area of "emotional study" is fast becoming an important part of research within computer science.

Military training

"There are many other possible applications for this type of technology, for example marketing to determine customer preferences and brand effectiveness," she said.

"It could also monitor anxiety levels of prospective soldiers during military training, providing instant neuro-feedback to combat addictive behaviours - the list is seemingly endless," she added.

Mr Christy, from Upper Llandwrog, Gwynedd, gained a first class degree in computer science in 2009 after leaving his job as a postman.

Following that success he was offered a post-graduate position at Bangor University.

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