An A.I. Algorithm Can See By Your Face Whether You're In Pain

Mercy

Faces in pain.
Ouch.UNBC-McMaster

One of the most poignant indicators of needing assistance is a physical showing of pain. A team from University of Oulu in Finland has published a technical report that claims the ability to recognize when someone is in pain. By training their algorithm on videos of more than 120 people in pain, the researchers were able to automatically identify pain on a 16-level scale.

The green line on both graphs are the A.I.'s results; the top chart marks estimated pain, while the bottom chart is the margin of error.
As the subject's face changes, the algorithm reacts and predicts that she is experiencing pain. The green line on both graphs are the A.I.'s results; the top chart marks estimated pain, while the bottom chart is the margin of error.University of Oulu

The researchers mainly noted this technique for healthcare applications—this kind of software would be able to alert medical professionals if their patients were in pain. However, for computers to better serve humans, they need to understand us. They need to know when we want certain information, when to call a ride home, where we want directions, and when we need help. Reading facial expressions, while it might seem frightening, is a powerful tool for making this eventuality happen.