Diagnosing depression isn't always the easiest thing to do, even for human psychiatrists, so how hard would it be for a computer to do it? This is the idea behind a new program called SimSensei.
It shouldn't be too hard to imagine a day when routine visits to the doctor's office will be done remotely without you having to leave your home. However, things get a little trickier when it comes to being able to diagnose psychological problems, because current diagnosis depends on answers to standard questionnaires and misses what could be important non-verbal cues and gestures.
This is something that Stefan Scherer, a researcher at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies, is looking to overcome with the SimSensei project.
The SimSensei program comes with an animated avatar that asks you questions ("hmmms" at the right time), and generally guides the conversation based on your answers; but at the same time it is also tracking your movements using Microsft's Kinect sensors and facial recognition software.
Here is a video of SimSensei at work.
The SimSensei project is still in its early stages, but it already can log your subtle body movements and facial expressions to help with diagnosis of depression.