Skip to Main Content
Social robots face the fundamental challenge of detecting and adapting their behavior to the current social mood. For example, robots that assist teachers in early education must choose different behaviors depending on whether the children are crying, laughing, sleeping, or singing songs. Interactive robotic applications require perceptual algorithms that both run in real time and are adaptable to the challenging conditions of daily life. This paper explores a novel approach to auditory mood detection which was born out of our experience immersing social robots in classroom environments. We propose a new set of low-level spectral contrast features that extends a class of features which have proven very successful for object recognition in the modern computer vision literature. Features are selected and combined using machine learning approaches so as to make decisions about the ongoing auditory mood. We demonstrate excellent performance on two standard emotional speech databases (the Berlin Emotional Speech [W. Burkhardt et al., 2005], and the ORATOR dataset [H. Quast, 2001]). In addition we establish strong baseline performance for mood detection on a database collected from a social robot immersed in a classroom of 18-24 months old children [J. Movellan er al., 2007]. This approach operates in real time at little computational cost. It has the potential to greatly enhance the effectiveness of social robots in daily life environments.