Can an app prevent a lovers’ quarrel before it happens?

Maybe they can call it the Don’t Throw a Fit Bit.

Researchers want to create a system that uses wearable tech and artificial intelligence to try to detect arguments between couples before they happen.

A recent University of Southern California study tracked 34 couples, who basically agreed to the high-tech equivalent of airing their dirty laundry by having their heart rates, skin-conductance levels, body temperatures and language usage recorded while they were fighting. The couples had to verify to their smartphones when they were in fact arguing — although some of them reportedly turned off audio recording for privacy at times.

After looking at all the data, a machine-learning algorithm — which also considered previous relationship studies and indicators of arguments, like the use of words such as “always” or “never” — accurately identified a conflict 79.3 percent of the time, the researchers said.

They are aiming for better accuracy and more precision, and are hoping that further research involving more couples, refining the algorithm and advances in wearable technology could lead to the development of an app that can help predict conflicts.

An app and wearable might then be able to help try to stop a blowup before it happens, for example by sending prompts for couples to “take a break or do a meditation exercise,” Adela Timmons, one of the researchers, told IEEE Spectrum, when the system detects a possible fight.

Could it really work? Would we really listen to our devices telling us to take a deep breath and chant “ommm” instead of getting caught up in the heat of the moment and going off on our partners?

“I think there’s a lot of room to be really creative with how we use these technologies, and it’s really an open question,” Timmons, a doctoral candidate in clinical and quantitative psychology at USC, said in an interview with IEEE posted on YouTube.


Photo: Danny DeVito and Kathleen Turner in “The War of the Roses,” a movie about a vicious divorce battle between Turner’s character and her husband, who was played by Michael Douglas. (Bay Area News Group archives) 



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