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The robo-relationship counsellor will see you now

Relationships

Many relationships have come to an end after an ugly exchange in the heat of the moment.

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Researchers in the US have developed a program that analyses the language and physiological traits of arguments. Picture: wikimedia commons

While disagreements between couples are inevitable, what if you could know exactly when to walk away before a tiff becomes a blazing row?

The answer could soon be in your hands – with a phone app that alerts partners when a quarrel is brewing.

Researchers in the US have developed a program that analyses the language and physiological traits of arguments.

They hope the technology could "de-escalate" conflict and help save relationships.

The scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) taught the algorithm to note physiological signs associated with conflict, such as a raised heart rate.

The artificial intelligence, which learns more with use, also identifies argumentative language, such as "you", words associated with negative emotions, and words conveying certainty, such as "always" or "never".

Couples wore devices such as wristband sensors to measure how much electricity the skin conducts, as this relates to stress and the nervous system. Body temperature, physical activity and heart rate were also measured and each individual carried a smartphone to record conversations.

Of the 34 couples, 19 argued at least once during the day-long experiment and the algorithm correctly identified conflict in 79 percent of cases, according to the research published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer magazine.

Now researchers want to refine the technology to identify arguments before they happen, in an app that would act as a "robo-relationship counsellor".

Adela Timmons, of USC, said: "We haven’t yet predicted conflict before it happens.

"We hope to predict conflict episodes and to also send real-time prompts, for example prompting couples to take a break or do a meditation exercise, to see if we can prevent or de-escalate conflict cycles in couples."

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