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by Tim Beissmann

Anyone who has ever been led astray by a satellite navigation system will understand just how frustrating the technology can be when it doesn’t work properly.

As a result, researchers at Cambridge University are currently working on a sympathetic navigation system that can detect when it has upset or annoyed the driver and adjust its actions accordingly, in an attempt to reduce road rage and driver distraction.

Cambridge University head of emotional robotics, Prof Peter Robinson, told The Telegraph in the UK his team was building intelligent computers that can read minds and detect emotions.

“Computers are really good at understanding what someone is typing or saying. But they need to understand not just what I’m saying, but how I’m saying it,” Prof Robinson said.

The sympathetic technology will use sensors to read the driver’s body language, hand movements, facial expressions and the tone of the driver’s voice to understand the mood and concentration levels of the person behind the wheel.

Prof Robinson said his team was working towards a system that could block mobile phone calls, mute or reduce radio and audio levels and alter navigation instructions until the driver regained their composure.

The implementation of sympathetic satellite navigation systems into vehicles is still a long way off according to Prof Robinson.

An earlier experiment placed an intelligent robot in the passenger seat of a car, in an attempt to bridge the emotional gap between man and machine. The robot was designed to have a conversation with the driver in a gentle voice while giving navigation instructions.




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