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The Boston Globe

Business

App helps tell difference between smirks, smiles

For advertisers, telling the difference is crucial, and a Mass. company aims to help

Watching people in conversation, you can usually tell when they lose interest or get confused or excited. But computers have a hard time telling a smile from a smirk, confusion from anger.

After examining thousands of faces from around the world, a Waltham start-up has figured out how to interpret these subtle shifts in expressions in real time. By reading tiny movements in the corners of the mouth, nose, and eyes and the shifting angles of the eyebrows, Affectiva Inc. can digitally decode facial messages — more effectively, it says, than others have done before.

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