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EmotionSense App Measures Smartphone Users’ Happiness

The app, available for Android, analyzes a smartphone user’s environment and combines that data with the user’s report about their own mood. Is the smartphone the new therapist?

EmotionSense App Measures Smartphone Users’ Happiness

Scientists researching the effect of mobile devices on a person’s well-being have created an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to gauge a user’s happiness. EmotionSense is the creation of a group of researchers from Cambridge University, and it combines data collected automatically by the phone as well as mood reports from the phone’s user to pinpoint what triggers certain moods.

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The app, described as a “journey of discovery,” as the whole process takes about two months, can measure an environment’s noise level, a user’s movement, and who they are communicating with. It can be used either by individuals as a way of finding out what exactly makes them happy, or it can be used by therapists, who can configure the data they’d like to collect.

Information from the phone, such as what time it is unlocked each morning, how many texts and calls are made and received, movements, location, and external noise, can be used to gauge just how social the individual is being. And then there’s the human layer, which asks the phone’s owner to determine their mood–these have been devised by psychologists.

It’s not the first time a smartphone has been used to measure happiness–a pair of researchers from the London School of Economics created the Mappiness iPhone app back in 2010–but it’s the first time the phone itself has been used to glean information, rather than just the person using the phone.

EmotionSense is currently Android-only, but the team is working on other versions. There has been some disquiet by some users uncomfortable with the app being able to access the phone’s SMS records, but the data is only used within the project.

[Image by Flickr user Björn Söderqvist]

About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.

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