Kansas State University


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National Science Foundation grant to fund study of measuring emotions with cybersystems

MANHATTAN — Emotions can heavily influence decision-making. To study the scope of this influence, a necessary first step is the ability to measure a person’s emotional state. A project at Kansas State University has been recently funded by the National Science Foundation to develop and improve devices used for this purpose.

David Thompson, assistant professor in the Mike Wiegers Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has been awarded nearly $500,000 by the National Science Foundation’s Information and Intelligent Systems: Core Programs for his project “Enhancing EEG-based Emotion Estimation with Transfer Learning, Priming and Virtual Reality.”

The Information and Intelligent Systems: Core Programs is part of the NSF’s Division of Information and Intelligent Systems, which supports research and education projects that develop new knowledge in three core programs: cyber-human systems, information integration and informatics, and robust intelligence.

Thompson’s project, funded under the Cyber-Human Systems Program, will lay the groundwork for devices that can be used outside the laboratory, from classrooms to theme parks.

“The normal way to measure emotion is by simply asking the person, but that takes time, causes interruptions and leads to false reports,” Thompson said.

His research will consist of applying three techniques — transfer learning, semantic priming and virtual reality — to increase the performance and reliability of these emotion-measuring systems. A collaboration with Thinkwell, a global entertainment company, will also be included in the project.

Together, these investigations are expected to dramatically improve the performance and, critically, the cross-task reliability of these systems.

“Emotion affects nearly every field of human study,” Thompson said. “Real-time measurement of valid emotions has the potential to cause cross-disciplinary transformation.”

The project will support significant undergraduate and graduate research efforts of students from all backgrounds in the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering at Kansas State University, enriching the educational experience of all participants.