The Doctor Will Really See You Now

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

– William Shakespeare

In our respective tragedies/comedies (depending on the moment), some individuals are better actors, revealing and hiding emotions with relative ease, portraying exactly the “I” that is scripted in their minds. Others, such as those who turn red at the slightest bit of discomfort, may try as they might but eventually have to give in to the transparency of their physiology.

Well, the playing (acting) field may have just been evened.

MIT’s Media Lab has engineered a remarkable pair of glasses “that are set to transform how we interact with each other” by accurately detecting very subtle facial cues that would be otherwise missed. The initial concept was born with the intention of helping people with autism pick up on these cues.

Inside the glasses is a camera the size of a rice grain connected to a wire snaking down to a piece of dedicated computing machinery about the size of a deck of cards. The camera tracks 24 “feature points” on your conversation partner’s face, and software developed by Picard analyses their myriad micro-expressions, how often they appear and for how long. It then compares that data with its bank of known expressions(see diagram).

From New Scientist

Roger Ebert (on Twitter) says, “These spectacles could destroy social life as we know it. And diplomacy.” But just imagine the possibilities within a doctor-patient interaction if a doctor could more easily detect skepticism or hope or fear or frustration. Perhaps, the use of these “social x-ray specs” would be limited in the case of a highly botox-ed face, but for the majority of patients, it could potentially enhance doctor-patient communication.

So, I say, “Where can I get one of these?”

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Filtering Helps E-patients, per MIT Media Lab

For those interested in a contrasting viewpoint – because there are always at least 2 ways to look at an issue – to my recent post about the potential effect of the “filter bubble,” I am using this post to present the other side of filtering. Filtering – in layman’s terms – is the way by which companies  like Google and Facebook (“gatekeepers”) determine what your search results will be, using algorithms that incorporate data from your prior search habits. Ian Eslick recently sent me a link to an article that explains the positive aspects of filtering. Eslick is a PhD candidate at MIT Media Laboratory and is studying how filters apply to healthcare information on the web. Here’s an excerpt from that article:

In an era of increasing information overload, the filter is a necessary and valuable tool and we’re only at the beginning of the technology curve.  In the context of health, filters are critical to improving the effectiveness of the rising class of e-patients.

This is a fascinating topic that is not new, but that I have recently discovered. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert, which is why I am posting the MIT Media Lab’s perspective, as well.

Do any of you out there have thoughts on the topic? How about filtering as it relates to healthcare information? Did you know about the concept of the “filter bubble” or personalized search results or is this also the first you have heard of it? Do you see other pros and cons to it? Does this topic even matter to you?