First there was Santa Claus and that whole “knows if you’ve been bad or good” thing. Then the Elf on the Shelf started watching everyone. But you didn’t need to worry because those were for kids, right? It’s time to worry. A company is offering computer mouse software that can tell by how you move it what your emotional state is. What’s even scarier, the data it collects can (and will) be sent to the websites you’re visiting. Must we now fear Big Mouse?
Brigham Young University information systems Professor Jeffrey Jenkins developed the mouse monitoring software using data provided by a cursor tracking system. Contrary to popular belief, users move their mouse slower, not faster, when experiencing negative feelings. The data showed that upset PC users become less accurate in their mouse movements, sliding stop-start and in jagged and erratic directions across the pad. The research also found distinct differences in mouse movement depending on the user’s specific emotional state and could accurately identify if a user was angry, frustrated, sad or confused.
What does this mean, Professor Jenkins?
Using this technology, websites will no longer be dumb. Websites can go beyond just presenting information, but they can sense you. They can understand not just what you're providing, but what you're feeling.
While you’re thinking about smashing your snoopy little mouse, Jenkins sees some practical applications for this system in website design. By collecting feedback, he says designers can determine where on a website users get frustrated and move on.
Being able to sense a negative emotional response, we can adjust the website experience to eliminate stress or to offer help.
He’s patented the technology and set up a company to market it.
Before you smugly call mouse users Luddites or PC troglodytes who deserve to have their unstable emotional states tracked, Jenkins is already adapting his cursor-tracking system for phone swipes and screen taps.
Big Mouse is watching ALL of you.