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Wearables May Soon Detect Conflict Between Couples

Do you fight with your spouse or partner? What are we asking? Of course, you do! Everyone does!

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could anticipate when those fights are coming? At the least, you could brace yourself for a big fight, and at best you could prevent it from even occurring. Such a thing is a pipe dream, right?

Well, it turns out wearables may soon be able to do such a thing.

Researchers from the University of Southern California have devised a wearable that can anticipate conflict. Sadly, it’s more of a concept and idea than it is a practical device at this point, but we may soon have something – you never know. After all, there is an exoskeleton suit that can pretty much turn you into a modern-day Iron Man. Why couldn’t there be a smaller wearable that can detect when a storm is brewing; a mood storm to be more precise?

Wearables May Soon Detect Conflict: How Is That Possible?

The study conducted by researchers used a variety of collected data to help determine when a conflict might be brewing. More specifically, the researchers leveraged machine learning techniques to come up with a monitoring system. The result is a platform that can effectively pinpoint conflict episodes with an accuracy rating of up to 86 percent. That’s quite impressive, wouldn’t you say?

The research was actually conducted outside a lab, presumably even outside the campus.

A network of wearable sensors and smartphones were used to record data from couples. Every hour they were asked to record thoughts and feelings about their significant other, and more importantly when there was a significant mood change.

The sensors were used to keep track of various stats from the subjects like body temperature, heart rate, sweat levels, and more. Meanwhile, the smartphones recorded audio data of interactions and activities which were cross-referenced with the other stats. This allowed researchers to build a complete profile of conflict, both from the intensity of speech and elevated emotion and body levels.

Ultimately, the goal is to optimize and perfect their machine learning algorithm so that it can be used in the real-world. They hope that an improved version can be used to create a unique wearable, one that, yes, can help detect a conflict between couples.

The researchers even predict that the finished product will be able to detect physiological signs of conflict or argument up to five minutes before it occurs. Imagine getting ready to fight with your significant other and an alarm or bell rings, letting you know exactly what’s coming?

Personally, something like that would make my wife and I crack up, killing the possibility of a conflict in the first place, exactly what something like this would be ideal for.

The researchers even suspect they can adapt the algorithm into a stand-alone piece of software for use with existing devices. Imagine turning your Apple Watch or Android Wear smartwatch into a mood detector?

Wearables May Soon Detect Conflict: Would It Have the Opposite Effect?


I also can’t help but read all this and wonder if a device of this caliber would have the opposite effect. My wife, for example, loves to ask me continuously “what’s wrong,” in a seemingly endless barrage of questions. Usually, this works to make me angry or agitated even when I was in a good mood.

My question is simply this. What if my wife notices the levels fluctuating and an argument brewing, and then starts asking me what’s wrong over and over? That, in turn, would have the opposite effect and make a conflict happen as opposed to preventing one.

I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment. Anyone else out there have similar experiences to share?

It would work the same in reverse too. I am just as prone to hounding my wife as she is me, especially when I think something might be wrong.

Come to think of it, maybe a device like this is really the devil in disguise.

What do you think?

It doesn’t make the research and study progress any less interesting, however. It’s also nice to see wearables being used to do something unique, something more.



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