According to The Asahi Shimbun, Japanese researchers at Yamagata University have jointly developed new technology with a private company that can assess stress levels in humans by analyzing their fingertips, tone of voice and facial expressions.
The developers said they want to use it to provide a new mental health care service to corporate customers as the increase in remote working amid the pandemic results in less in-person communication, meaning less checking up on how colleagues are doing.
The computer system uses a device that measures a person’s pulse to determine how fast their blood is pumping.
It also relies on a smartphone microphone and camera for capturing the person’s voice and facial expressions.
Artificial intelligence software then analyzes the results for changes and charts their stress levels, project officials explained. The results can then be used as a basis for online discussions with a mental health counselor.
Currently, mental health checkups rely on people filling out questionnaires.
But this project aims to provide more reliable data to avoid human biases and false responses.
Many employers also only conduct those kind of mental health checkups about once a year.
But this service allows more regular diagnoses, project officials said.
The system was developed by Yamagata University researchers Michio Yokoyama, an associate professor of electronic devices, Tomochika Harada, an assistant professor of intelligent informatics, and the company Yume Cloud Japan, the Japanese subsidiary of a startup headquartered in Silicon Valley.
Yume Cloud Japan was founded at Yamagata University’s Business Starting Center for Organic Material in Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture.
Tohoku University and the Tohoku University of Art and Design also helped with the development work, officials said.
Yume Cloud President Daisuke Yoshida and other members of the development team announced the product at a news conference on July 8 at the Yamagata University Faculty of Engineering in Yonezawa.
Yoshida said since the novel coronavirus crisis has reduced in-person interactions, workplace supervisors are less likely to notice signs their employees might be struggling with mental health issues.
"I hope businesses will introduce our (new) service to promote more efficient and more sophisticated mental health care to help reduce the stress levels of their workers," Yoshida said.
Several companies are starting test runs of the MindScale service in July after requesting to try it. The service will be made available to corporate customers starting next year.
Yume Cloud officials also have plans to offer the service in the United States. They aim to have MindScale used by about 180,000 people in 2023.
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