By Julie Lockner, Vice President, Market Development and Evangelist at Informatica

First published on Informatica's blog: Perspectives

Now that Valentine's Day is over, many people are letting out a sigh of relief and happy to be done with finding the perfect gift that says "I love you." But for some, Valentine's Day brings up a crucial question that lingers long after the holiday ends: How do you know if you have found 'true love'?

Biologists and psychologists tell us that when we are struck by cupid's arrow, our body is reacting to a set of chemicals that are released in the brain that evoke emotions and feelings of lust, attraction and attachment.[1] When those chemicals are released, our bodies respond. Our hearts race, blood pumps through our veins, faces flush, body temperatures rise. Some say it feels like electricity is conducting all over the skin. It releases a flood of emotions that may cloud our judgment and may even cause us to make a choice considered unreasonable to others. Sound familiar?

But what causes our brains to react to one person and not another? Are we predisposed to how certain people look or smell? Do our genes play a role in determining an affinity toward a body type or shape?

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Pheromone research has shown how sensors in our nose can smell whether or not someone's immune system compliments our own based on the scent of urine and sweat. Meaning, if someone has a similar immune deficiency, that individual won't smell good to us. We are more likely to prefer the smell of someone who has an immune system that is different. Is our genetic code programming our instincts to preselect who we should mate with so our offspring has a higher chance of surviving?

It is probably not surprising that most men are attracted to women with symmetrical faces and hourglass figures. Genetic research hints that men's predispositions are also based on a genetic code. There is a correlation between asymmetric facial characteristics and genetic disorders as well as between waist to hip ratios and fertility. Depending on where you are in your stage in life, these characteristics could have a weighting factor in how your brain responds to the smell of the perfect pheromone and how someone appears. And, some argue it is all influenced by body language, voice tone and actual words used in dialogue.[2]

Psychologists report it takes only two to four minutes to decide if you are falling in love with someone. Even if you dismiss some or accept all of the possibilities I am presenting, experiencing love is impacted by a variety and intensity of senses, interpretations and emotions combined together in a short period of time. If you are a data nerd like myself, variety, volume and velocity of 'signals' begins to sound like a Big Data marketing pitch. This really is an application of predictive analytics using different data types, large volumes of data and real-time decision making algorithms. But, I'm actually more interested in how affective computing, wearable devices and analytics could help determine whether or not what you feel is actually 'true love' or just a bad case of indigestion.

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Affective computing, according to researcher Rosalind Picard,[3] gives a computer the ability to recognize and express emotions, develop that ability and enable it to regulate and utilize emotions. When applied to wearable devices that can listen to how you talk, measure blood pressure, detect changes in heart and respiration rate and even measure electro-dermal responses, is it possible that technology could sense when your body is responding to the chemicals of love?

What about mood rings, you may ask? Mood rings, the original form of an affective wearable device that grew in popularity in the 1970s changed color based on your mood. Unfortunately, mood rings only change based on body temperature. Through data collection and research, researchers[4] have shown that physiology patterns cannot be determined by body temperature alone. In order to truly differentiate emotion of, let's say 'true love,' you need to be able to collect multiple physiological signals and detect a pattern using multi-variant pattern recognition algorithms. And, if you only have 2-4 minutes, it pretty much needs to calculate chances of 'true love' in real-time to prevent making a life-altering mistake.

The evolution of wearables technology has reached medical grade, allowing parents to detect when their children are about to have an epileptic seizure or are experiencing acute levels of stress. When tuned to love-seekers' queues, is it possible that this same technology could send an audio or visual signal to your smart phone alerting you as to whether or not this person is a 'true love' candidate? Or glow red if you are in the proximity of someone who is experiencing similar physiological changes? Maybe this is the next application for match-making companies such as eHarmony or Match.com?

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The reality is this. Assuming that the data is clean and accurate, safe from violating any data privacy concerns and truly connected to your physiological signals, wearable device technology that could detect close proximity of 'true love' is probably five years out. It is more likely to show up in a popular science fiction film than at an Apple store in the near term. But, when it does, think about how the signal on your smart phone device tells you the proximity of a potential candidate, where a local flower shop is, integrated with facial recognition and Facebook photos and 'status' (assuming it is true), with an iTunes recommendation of 'Love Is In The Air' by John Paul Young, 'True Love' is only 2-4 minutes away.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/hottop…

[2] http://www.youramazingbrain.org/lovesex/scienc…

[3] R. Picard. Affective Computing. Pages 227-239, MIT Press, 2000

[4] Cacioppa and Tassinary (1990)