By Seth Stevenson
(posted Friday, April 24)
Who's telling the truth: Kathleen Willey or Bill Clinton? Kenneth Starr or Rahm Emanuel? Don't wait for the facts to come out. Join us in a rush to judgment based on a software program of dubious reliability!
Truster, a new CD-ROM produced by an Israeli software company, claims to be a "personal truth verifier." You simply run conversations through your computer (via a microphone or an included telephone adapter), and Truster decides if the speakers are telling the truth, if they are highly stressed, if they are manipulating their voices, and so on. According to its manual, Truster uses "the technology of vocal stress recognition" in conjunction with "a highly sophisticated algorithm." As Truster analyzes a conversation, on-screen graphs appear, measuring voice manipulation, how much the speaker is thinking about his/her words, excitement level, stress level, and general truth/falsity. After the test, Truster prints a report using stock phrases ranging from "The subject was found reliable" to "The subject might give information that he is not sure of" to "Based on the results, the subject might lie when he needs to." I gave Truster a try, unleashing it on the Clinton scandals, PBS personalities, used-car salesmen, various friends, and my mom. Click on the icons below to find out how Truster (and its victims) fared.