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Israeli online tool detects depression

08-20-2010 09:55 BJT

JERUSALEM, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- Israeli researchers have come up with a software they say can accurately tell a person's emotional state and intentions, including suicidal depression, by scanning data on publicly available blogs and social media.

Details of the online "depression detector" appear in an article published Thursday by ISRAEL21c, a web site that features Israeli technology and inventions.

"The software program was designed to find depressive content hidden in language" through web searches for words and metaphors, according to Dr. Yair Neuman from Israel's Bar-Ilan University who led the research.

Neuman and his team developed a new algorithm that can pinpoint human emotions and intentions and could help human experts in identifying individuals with suicidal tendencies.

Clinical psychologists who tested the new software said it was successful in identifying depression 78 percent of the time.

"A psychologist knows how to spot emotional states through intuition. Here, we have a program that does this methodically through Web intelligence," Neuman said.

"The tool can provide a powerful way to screen for depression through blogs and Facebook. It analyzes text, the written language, " Neuman added. But he also stressed that the human element was crucial in assessing the data's significance, "it's not artificial intelligence, but intelligence augmentation, combining the wisdom of people with IT to mine a goldmine of data."

Neuman said the algorithm can also "excavate" the meaning of context, which enables its users to diagnose feelings of love, revenge and happiness among people, even the sentiment among a particular population under particular circumstances. Being able to identify vengeful individuals means being able to track down potential terrorists and felons.

The Israeli Defense Ministry reportedly financed the research, which involved the scanning of a few hundred thousand English- language blogs linked to mental health sites. The software was programmed to identify the 100 most depressed and the 100 least depressed individuals by analyzing their responses to metaphors and questions, according to the report.

The new technology will not be made available to the general public for the time being. And Neuman declined to comment on which agencies have shown interest in the new software, although it clearly has potential to become a prized asset for law enforcement and government’s security agencies.

Editor:Zheng Limin |Source: Xinhua

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