Maddy Foley
November 12, 2015 6:21 pm

You know how sometimes you look at a party photo on Facebook or Instagram or your phone the next morning and think, “….what is happening here? Is anyone actually having fun?” Well, now, instead of mass texting everyone in your phone, “WAS LAST NIGHT A GOOD TIME,” you can just ask your computer. No, really. Microsoft has announced a new app called Emotion APIs, and the program can guess how you’re feeling based on one photo. Spooky? Oh hell yeah. Handy? Most definitely.

The app, released on a limited free trial yesterday, claims to detect anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, neutral, sadness, and surprise — facial expressions which are considered universal. It’s one in a whole suite of new artificial intelligence tools from Microsoft’s Project Oxford. Remember that app that guessed your age based on your face? You know, that one I vehemently avoided because I worried that it would say I was either 5 years old or 80 years old? Yep, that was Project Oxford technology.  

While I would definitely use this app to stalk all of my old photos from college (was my Aristocats-themed party as big a hit as I thought? The truth will be revealed), Microsoft has slightly more, um, ambitious plans.

Suggestions for this “machine learning” technology include marketers gauging widespread public reactions to window displays, photos or even food, and developers creating apps that read a user’s emotion and make suggestions based on their facial expressions.

Obviously, there has been some question as to whether this artificial technology can detect the nuances and subtleties of human expression. People across social media have been blasting the app for missing less obvious social cues, so I thought I’d put it to my own test. And that test is called “Am I Smiling On The Inside: A Life in Four Acts by Maddy Foley.” And that test means dredging up times in my life when I was smiling… or was I????? You tell me, computer.

Act I: Pre-Preschool Art Class Graduation In Which I Didn’t Follow Directions And Ruined The Frame That This Photo Was Supposed To Go In By Covering It In Glitter

Ah, okay, well, my top emotion here is: Contempt. Which is… probably accurate? I really didn’t like being told what to do, even at the age of 2.

Act II: Yes, That Is An 8-Year-Old Wearing Bifocals

Anger? Maybe. Picture Day was the worst. I couldn’t smile on command and the photo assistants always tried to comb my hair and, like, as anyone with curls will tell you, DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR THANK YOU.

Act III: This Tracksuit Is Timeless, These Clear Braces Are Timeless, And I Definitely Don’t Hate Being On The 8th Grade Swim Team Or Anything

If “Neutral” is code for “just trying to make it through middle school relatively unscathed,” then yep. Neutral it is.

Act IV: I’m Graduating From College With A Degree in English And No Job and I’m About To Move In With My Parents Who Live In Cleveland Boy What A Time To Be Alive

HAHA yes you are right, Microsoft, that is a look of pure fear and terror, you nailed it, A+ for you.

(Images via Giphy, author)

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