Microsoft Patents Tech to Track Employees' Body Language at Meetings

microsoft logo is shown on a building

(Dreamstime)

Microsoft has patented technology that would use cameras, sensors, and software tools to monitor people's body language and facial expressions during meetings, reports GeekWire.

The "meeting insight computing system" would score meetings by tracking several parameters including the number of people in the room, temperature, time of day, noise level, body language and/or facial expressions of meeting participants, and the amount of time each participant spends contributing during the meeting.

The system uses cameras, microphones, and a personal electronic device to determine, for example, "how much a participant contributes to a meeting vs performing other tasks (e.g., texting, checking email, browsing the Internet)."

"Because conventional computerized scheduling systems lack real-world context, users may not be aware that they are attempting to schedule non-optimal meetings, which may result in meetings that are unproductive at best," the patent application reads.

"Many organizations are plagued by overly long, poorly attended, and recurring meetings that could be modified and/or avoided if more information regarding meeting quality was available."

Microsoft was criticized earlier this month for its new analytics tool for employers called "productivity score," a tool that collects data about how employees are using the company's tools, including how much they use email and whether they turn cameras on during meetings.

"This normalizes extensive workplace surveillance in a way not seen before," said data researcher Wolfie Christl.

"This is so problematic at many levels. … Not least, Microsoft gets the power to define highly arbitrary metrics that will potentially affect the daily lives of millions of employees and even shape how organizations function."


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