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New video game deciphers emotions

Answers to questions about your lover's fidelity, your boss's mood or your own temperament could be just a push of a button away on the Nintendo DS handheld machine.

"Heart Scan," a new video game from Sega Corp., uses the microphone on Nintendo Co.'s hit portable to analyze people's voices for a range of feelings - calm, jittery, happy, disappointed, angry.

Have lovers declare their passion, interrogate potential liars and place the DS in a workplace meeting to see if colleagues are as intrigued as they claim to be, Sega spokesman Yasushi Nagumo said.

Numbers, drawings, charts and words pop up on the screen: "The speaker more or less likes you," or "The speaker is agitated."

If a person reads a list of words, "rendezvous, extramarital affair, living together, divorce, marriage," the software shows which rattles nerves much like a lie-detector test, Sega says.

But developers warn against jumping to conclusions about someone's actions, such as infidelity, just because a voice sounds nervous.

The game is being billed as capable of deciphering the psyche of people on a televised news conference, as well as of manga animation characters. It also helps you understand yourself, according to the Tokyo maker of "Sonic the Hedgehog" games.

Its "sensibility technology" was codeveloped by Advanced Generation Interface Japan Inc. and SGI Japan, to monitor the moods of workers who answer phones and those making complaint calls, said AGI engineer Fumiaki Monma.

Voice samples were collected and analyzed for "parameters," or characteristics, and then labeled as representing emotions, he said. The parameters don't reflect volume, but patterns of tones.

Sega has not decided on overseas plans for the game, which went on sale in Japan Aug. 16.

Nintendo and its partners are introducing new kinds of games to attract novices, including brain drills, facial beauty exercises and cooking recipes.

Nagumo said he has tried "Heart Scan" at meetings and other situations, but not on his wife.

"I'm too scared to try it," he said.

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