The Age reports from Tokyo about a device designed to translate baby talk:
“We aim to develop a device to read babies’ feelings,” says Kazuyuki Shinohara, a neurobiology professor at the state-run Nagasaki University who leads the research team.
The gadget could be a godsend in a country where a growing number of young people find child-rearing too burdensome, although some experts are cautious about an almost science-fiction world where babies are understood with machines before they learn to talk.
Shinohara’s group has been conducting experiments involving mothers and their babies by monitoring the infants’ cries, facial expressions and body temperature changes in a project backed by the government-subsidised Japan Science and Technology Agency.
“We are trying to read babies’ faces numerically such as the distance between eyebrows and the nose tip,” Shinohara tells AFP.
As for other clues on what babies mean to say, researchers are also analysing whether high or low frequencies in the sound of the cries show they want specific things.
The team is also monitoring the temperatures of babies’ bodies, mostly the face, through thermography. Shinohara says changes in temperature normally indicate particular desires.
The professor, who declined to elaborate on his conclusions or the shape of the gadget pending patenting, aims to launch the device by mid-2006.
Paint us skeptical. The device seems to be more like a polygraph for babies than a friendly home gadget…
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