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Department of Computer Science and Technology

A team from the lab's Graphics & Interaction Group are using 21st century technology to recreate an experiment run by Charles Darwin in the 19th century.

The Computer Laboratory team have joined forces with the Darwin Correspondence Project, based at Cambridge University Library, and Autism Research Centre as part of the Festival of Ideas , the UK’s only festival for the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Using 21st century techniques to study the same problems Darwin grappled with during March and November 1868 as he worked on his book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Saturday's experiment will use the same photographs Darwin used nearly 150 years ago.  After tomorrow, anyone will be able to take part online, through the Darwin Correspondence Project's website, at

The test follows the format of one devised by Laurel Riek, Marwa Mahmoud and Tadas Baltrušaitis in the Computer Laboratory which invites participants around the world to watch videos on their home computers and classify their emotional content, drawing on their database of words describing emotions.

The Computer Laboratory work, led by Professor Peter Robinson, is looking at the development of socially and emotionally adept technologies. Emotionally intelligent interfaces, such as the ones being worked at Cambridge, are able to understand our emotions and react to them. The project is investigating the inference of people's mental states from facial expressions, vocal nuances, body posture and gesture – and also considering the expression of emotions by robots and cartoon avatars.

See for more information about research into affective computing in the Computer Laboratory.

Published by Jan Samols on Friday 21st October 2011