Ain't no problem that can't be solved by an app. At least, that's what it seems like the folks at EI Technologies are out to prove. Their app "Xpression" aims to help treat depression by listening to a user's voice, cataloguing his or her moods, and alerting a doctor of any dangerous dips. All automatically.
Based on emotion recognition that can reliably suss out a speakers general mood from the pitch of his or her voice, Xpression keeps its proverbial ears open all the time. Whenever the user speaks -- to other people, on the phone, to a stuffed animal -- the app "listens", recording a 200ms snippet of audio, enough to register info about pitch and volume, but not enough to effectively eavesdrop. Then, with some help from cloud-computing, the app decides the users mood, and puts it in a comprehensive log. And if things go south, the app knows who to call.
Similar logging strategies are already used to keep tabs on mounting depression, but they tend to require journaling on the patient's part, and a depressed patient will often shrug off the duty. This always-listening app, on the other-hand, is tireless and single-minded. "Xpression" is still in development, but El Technologies is up for an award in the UK for its work. And if nothing else, this seems like an effective way to at least turn depression into paranoia.
Shhh. It can hear you. [New Scientist]