Skip to Content

Software Better at Detecting Frustration Than Humans

And it’s not because subjects have been trained to “smize”.

Did you know that you smile when you’re frustrated? Starting at 1:20 in the video below, witness a behavior that you may find novel – and doubly so because you’re a human being who is exquisitely tuned to reading the emotional expressions of others.

M. Ehsan Hoque of the MIT Media Lab (right) demonstrates the “frustration smile”

By training a feature-detecting algorithm to decompose subjects’ facial expressions into individual “action units,” M. Ehsan Hoque of the MIT Media Lab discovered not only that smiling is quite common when test subjects are frustrated, but also that software is better than humans at differentiating frustration smiles from happiness smiles.

“For frustrated smiles, humans performed below chance, whereas the algorithm did better than 90 percent,” says Hoque.

Subjects’ frustration smiles included activation of the groups of facial muscles known as action unit 12, or raising of the corners of the lips, as well as action unit 6, in which cheeks are raised.

No word on whether or not the smile detector can differentiate between real smiles and Tyra Banks’ patented “Smize.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.