New Scientist Tech has an article about how the town of Groningen in the Netherlands has installed microphones at street level to help monitor the ’emotional’ activity on the street…The microphones are part of a system that includes acoustic recognition software. The software is capable of analyzing the voices of people on the street for high-frequency vowel sounds and picking up aggressive sounding voices. Police can then be sent to the scene to break up arguments or fights, hopefully before they escalate into larger altercations.
Aside from the obvious ‘big brother-esque’ concerns of such a device (has it now become a crime to yell in a public place?) the part I find interesting is that the story confirms that particular ‘formal properties’ of sound can be linked with particular ‘experiential properties’. That is, sounds emitted in a particular frequency (formal property) almost always indicate that the person emitting the sound is doing so because they are experiencing a particular emotional state (experiential property), in this case, anger. Since emotions often act as triggers for behaviour, anger can often lead to physical violence. For me this represents another example of how unconscious emotional responses can be utilized, in this case to gather data and help ensure public saftey.
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