It's impossible to avoid awful people. They sit next to you on the train and talk about toothpaste for 15 minutes, even as you wince, deliberately and obnoxiously. These glasses might help these people realise just how awkward they are.
These "social x-ray specs", as creator Rosalind Picard calls them, can identify six of the most important human facial expressions: thinking, agreeing, concentrating, interested and - most importantly - confused and disagreeing. A rice grain-sized camera in the glasses tracks 24 points on the face of the person with whom you're speaking. Then software developed by Picard swiftly analyzes that person's facial movement, comparing it to a database of known human expressions. Once the glasses have categorised your conversation partner's emotions, they'll discreetly announce it in your ears.
So if you're talking about the amazing synergy of your workplace or your "awesome" History Channel DVD collection, the glasses will say "confused" or "disagreeing" - code for shut the hell up.
All you advanced conversationalists shouldn't get too excited. The glasses can only correctly identify 64 per cent of expressions - just 10 per cent more than your average non-social-specs-wearing Joe. There's that, and the fact that no normal person (especially all those weird, shifty people you meet on public transit or in the damp corners of bars) would ever want to hear an ongoing public critique of their conversation as they're having it.
But hey, if Picard can lose the flashing light and make her prototype into some marketable augmented-reality glasses, these might just be the closest thing to a sixth sense for those unfortunate people. [Good via New Scientist]