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Photo: Screenshot of Bryan Walsh playing the Emojify game

New AI tools purport to be able to identify human emotion in images and speech patterns.

Why it matters: Prompted in part by the push of the pandemic, tech companies have been advertising emotion recognition programs, but experts warn they may not work — and may be misused.

How it works: Emotion recognition software is meant to do just that — use decades-old psychological research about how humans express emotions and recognize it in image, video or even in speech.

The catch: There are serious concerns about how effective emotion recognition AI really is and whether it can even be used ethically.

  • A multidisciplinary team led by University of Cambridge professor Alexa Hagerty recently produced the Emojify Project, which allows users on the web to try out emotion recognition tech for themselves.
  • It's not hard to "fool" the system by producing a less than real facial expression that corresponds to one of the six supposedly universal emotions conveyed by all human beings — like the "smile" I'm presenting in the picture above this piece.

What they're saying: In a piece published earlier this week in Nature, AI ethicist Kate Crawford argued the technology should be regulated because it can draw "faulty assumptions about internal states and capabilities from external appearances, with the aim of extracting more about a person than they choose to reveal."

  • Last week my Axios colleague Ina Fried broke a story about a digital civil rights group asking Spotify to abandon a technology it has patented to detect emotion, gender and age using speech recognition.

The bottom line: The two questions we should ask about emerging technology are: does it work? And should we use it?

Go deeper: ACLU to FOIA information about national security uses of AI

Go deeper

Health care ruling saves Republicans from themselves

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Supreme Court saved the health care system from imploding Thursday by dismissing a Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act. But it also saved the GOP itself from another round of intraparty chaos.

Why it matters: Most GOP lawmakers privately admit (and some will even say publicly) they don't want to deal with health care again. The issue generally isn't a good one for them with voters — as they learned the hard way after they failed to repeal the ACA in 2017.

7 hours ago - Economy & Business

Fed chief's second-term audition

Jerome Powell during a virtual news conference. Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell faces a long, hot summer audition for a second term, with senators watching and weighing his response to potential signs of inflation.

Why it matters: The financial system's chief is one of the most powerful in the world. President Biden hasn’t given any public indication whether he’ll renominate Powell, but Democrats close to the administration say there's a chance he'll make an announcement by Labor Day — well before Powell’s term ends next February.

9 hours ago - World

Mapping China's growing global influence

Data: Atlantic Council; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

As of 1980, China was the most influential player in just one country: Albania. Now, China is the leading power across most of sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia and is catching up to the U.S. in its own hemisphere.

What we’re reading: That's according to a new report from the University of Denver and the Atlantic Council that seeks to measure the influence countries have on each other, and in so doing offers a dramatic portrait of China's rise.