Computer Program Deciphers Baby's Cries


Can you tell what your baby’s cries mean? Is he or she hungry, wet, tired, in pain, or lonely? A new computer program developed by Japanese scientists can analyze a baby’s cries and could someday find its way into baby monitors.

One of the perplexing tasks of parenthood is trying to decipher a baby’s cries. “Why is the baby crying?” “I wish she could tell me what she wants!” “What does this cry mean?” These are all questions parents would be thrilled to have answered. If Japanese scientists have their way, the answers may be soon in coming.


An approach to product design called kansei engineering may hold the key. Previous attempts to determine an infant’s emotions based on an analysis of crying patterns have not yielded much success. This new method, however, uses sound pattern recognition and a statistical analysis of the frequency of cries and the audio spectrum to classify different types of crying.

Tomomasa Nagashima of the Department of Computer Science and Systems Engineering at Muroran Institute of Technology and his colleagues were able to correlate the recorded audio spectra with an infant’s emotional state as confirmed by the child’s parents. The researchers recorded the cries of babies who have a painful genetic disorder, and they were able to differentiate between the infants’ painful cries and other types of crying with a 100 percent success rate.

Thus far the researchers have developed a reliable theoretical method for classifying an infant’s emotions, although for now they are limited to a specific emotion based on the audio spectra of a baby’s cries. This computer program may eventually be incorporated into a portable electronic device or app that will allow parents and other caregivers to decipher their baby’s cries so they know what actions they need to take.

Statistical method for classifying cries of baby based on pattern recognition of power spectrum. International Journal of Biometrics 2010; 2:113-23.