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New Dell software will let your boss read your mind - or at least your emotions

Having a bad day at work? Try to hide it from your boss while you can, because Dell has claimed it could release a mood-reading application as soon as 2017.

The head of Dell's new research and development division, Jai Menon, told the BBC that the company has been working on brain monitoring software. Placed inside brain activity headsets, this software could accurately identify a wearer's emotional states.

According to Menon, this tech could be used in both the office and home. Perhaps by despairing parents trying to understand their taciturn teenagers, ITProPortal wonders.

Menon said his research has been examining headsets made by Neurosky and other manufacturers, trying to see whether they could be used to ascertain whether the wearer was happy, sad, bored or frustrated.

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"If I can sense the user is working hard on a task, an intuitive computer system might then reduce distractions, such as allowing incoming phone calls to go directly to voicemail and not letting the user be disturbed," he suggested.

"Similarly, if they've been concentrating [for] a long time, maybe it could suggest a break."

The idea of mood-reading technology is not unique to Dell. Many major tech companies have become preoccupied with the notion, for example Microsoft, which has announced a series of emotion-centred research projects.

This includes, bizarrely, a "smart bra" that montitors heart and skin activity to detect stress and emotions.

At the moment Menon says the software can only correctly identify a headset wearer's mood about half of the time. Still, he's hopeful that that figure will improve.

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However, some experts are sceptical about the project. "I think the potential for these things is astronomical, but we've been told this technology has been five years away for decades," said Dr Bernie Hogan, a human-computer interaction expert from the University of Oxford.

It's something that Menon seems to be aware of. He told the BBC that even if a mood-reading device was created successfully, workers would likely be resistant in adopting it.

The rights to my internal mind-state would be up for grabs," he admitted. "Will it be a condition of my job that I wear something that monitors my mood? That's extremely scary and very different from a brain-control interface, which is more compelling."