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Friday, August 12, 2005 


Bored on Phone? Beware Jerk-O-Meter

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Ever wonder if that spouse, friend or co-worker on the other end of the phone is really paying attention? The "Jerk-O-Meter" may hold the answer.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing software for cell phones that would analyze speech patterns and voice tones to rate people — on a scale of 0 to 100 percent — on how engaged they are in a conversation.

Anmol Madan, who led the project while he pursued a master's degree at MIT, sees the Jerk-O-Meter as a tool for improving relationships, not ending them. Or it might assist telephone sales and marketing efforts.


For now, the Jerk-O-Meter is set up to monitor the user's end of the conversation. If his attention is straying, a message pops up on the phone that warns, "Don't be a jerk!" or "Be a little nicer now." A score closer to 100 percent would prompt, "Wow, you're a smooth talker."

However, the Jerk-O-Meter also could be set up to test the voice on the other end of the line. Then it could send the tester such reports as: "This person is acting like a jerk. Do you want to hang up?"

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