The heat from the stage lights beat down on a man as he scrutinizes a series of notecards that he reads, and rereads as he stands anxiously on the stage. He peers over the cards to look at the three judges that sit before him. One absent-mindedly scrolls through their phone, another checks a hand mirror to make sure the makeup department didn’t miss anything, while the last one makes eye-contact with the man, and gives a big smile and a thumbs-up. He manages a quick smile and nod, before returning to the cards. Suddenly a voice shouts from off-stage;
“Sixty seconds people!”
The man tucks the cards hastily into his pocket as he turns his attention to triple-checking a laptop hooked up to a large screen. This is followed by a re-re-straightening of his shirt and a re-re-cleaning of his glasses. He checks himself in the reflection of his phone, wiping the shimmer of sweat off his brow. He takes a deep breath.
“Five, four, three, two--”
The stage hand points to a beaming, well-dressed man on a separate stage.
“Welcome back everyone to: America’s Next Great Invention! Now, let’s meet tonight’s inventor!”
He makes a sweeping motion as the camera turns and focuses on the man on stage.
says the first judge, a formal-looking middle aged woman.
“Tell us about your invention.”
A police officer sits in a room staring at a pair of monitors on a desk in front of him. The door opens and a younger police officer enters the room.
“Hello, are you officer--”
The officer, a portly man with a large bristly mustache, stands and gestures to the chair he was sitting in.
“Come on in kid-- take a seat. What’s your name again”
The younger officer, clean shaven with a crew cut, enters.
“Carl-- I mean Johnson-- Officer Johnson sir.”
The officer laughs,
“Oh don’t worry about all that, Carl’s fine by me, and you can call me Jim. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jim walks over to the the monitors.
“So, what do you know about our Polytypography system?”
Carl looks at monitors, one displaying a video feed of an interrogation room. The other has a white screen with a black oscillating line on it, with a series of numbers displayed to the side.
“Nothing really, sir. I was only told about my assignment this morning.”
Jim chuckles, before taking a seat next to Carl.
“Yeah, that’s what I figured. This is a pretty new setup we got here, so I’m not surprised the higher-ups aren’t up to speed. Let me give you the rundown.”
“So, it’s like a voice recognition system? Is it more Siri, or more Amazon Echo?”
asks the second judge, an older bearded man, with an incredibly deep voice.
“Neither I hope,”
says the third judge. A handsome, British man dressed in an extravagant, brightly colored outfit.
“The last thing I need is another woman in my life that doesn’t listen to me!”
The audience bursts into laughter, as the camera turns back to the inventor.
“Uh, yes, well, in a sense I suppose, but it’s more of a, um... visual tool.”
He coughs before turning to the laptop, the screen behind him turning on.
“Basically, it’s able to learn your voice, then pick up differences in how you says certain things and display that information visually as text.”
“What does that mean?” The first judge asks, leaning in.
“Well, I have an example that I can show you right here.”
The screen brings up a video of a man in a park with a woman.
“This is my brother, David, proposing to his wife, Sarah.”
The video plays, and a few “awws,” and a smattering of applause escape from the audience.
“So, I took the audio from that video, and separated it into two separate voice tracks.”
He brings up a transcript onto the screen, with an audio waveform underneath.
“Which can be seen as text and a basic, uh, soundwave here. However, if we run the audio through the Polytypographer--”
He brings up another image on the screen. This time the text is separated into two colors, blue and pink, and the words are different sizes and shapes.
The inventor gestures to the screen.
“And there you have it!”
The audience claps, but the judges do not.
“So, you follow me so far?” asks Jim looking at the puzzled face of Carl.
“Uh, I believe so sir.” Carl says looking over the software on the second screen.
“But, how does that help in an interrogation?”
“Ah,” Jim says, turning to the second monitor “That’s the question isn’t it?”
He points to the numbers on the right side of the screen.
“See these values? If you highlight any word, it gives you the exact differences in the word from the norm.”
Carl nods, but still looks puzzled.
“I understand that sir, but what do the values mean in relation to what they’re saying?”
Jim points to the first value, labeled “SIZE DIFFERENCE.”
“This one is pretty simple, the bigger the word is, the more emphasis they put on it. This is usually pretty evident, but even a slightly greater emphasis on a word can say a lot.”
Carl raises a brow,
“How so sir?”
“Well,” says the inventor, pointing to the blue text on the screen.
“Look at the ‘will’ when he says ‘will you marry me?’ At first, it looks like it’s not that different in size from the other words. However--”
He presses a key, bringing up a screen with only the blue text.
“If you blow it up, you can see that it’s at least fifty percent bigger than the words ‘you’ and ‘me.’ And, this makes sense right? I mean, the ‘marry’ is the most important part, but the real question is in ‘will’ isn’t it?”
The audience claps, and this time the judges do as well.
“That’s beautiful man,” says the third judge with a big smile.
The inventor smiles, looking to the other two judges.
“But what about the other parts of the shape?” asks the second judge.
The inventor nods, bringing up the next slide.
“I’m glad you asked.”
“This here,” Jim says, pointing to the next value.
“This is your ‘cohesion.’ That’s how much the word lines up with the other words. This one can be harder to spot.”
“So, these are how far left, right, up, or down the word is?” Carl asks.
Jim nods, “Basically.”
“Further left means they said it quicker than the other words, while further right means they hesitated before saying it, even if just for a moment. While up and down are how fast or slow they say the word itself.”
“So, if a word is down and to the the left-- they hesitated and said it slowly?” Carl asks still looking at the values.
“Yep, like if they’re choosing their words carefully.” Jim says.
“So what would it mean if it’s up and to the right?”
“Hmm...” Carl rubs his chin thoughtfully.
“That they’re trying to... avoid it? Get past it quickly?”
Jim chuckles, “Hey, you’re catching on faster than I did.”
“But,” Jim continues, “What if it’s left and up? Or right and down?”
Carl looks confused, before responding.
“Uhh... I’m not sure sir.”
Jim laughs, slapping Carl on the back.
“Don’t worry kid, I’ll get you up to speed.”
The door to the room opens, and another officer peers.
“Hey, Jim, the guy is finally here. He’s in interrogation room five.”
Jim smiles and nods, “Right, we’ll get ready.”
The door closes as the other officer leaves.
Jim turns to Carl with a toothy grin.
“Alright kid, let’s take you on a test drive.”
“Do you see any other application for this invention? Beyond what is just, essentially, an art program?” the first judge asks
The inventor slightly cocks his head.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, do you think they’re potential for this program outside of making these-- what did you call them?”
“Emotigraphs.” The inventors says.
The judges nods, “Right.”
“Well,” the inventor begins, his brow furrowed.
“I supposed it could hypothetically be used to supplement a polygraph test, it works under a similar principle in which--”
The second judge speaks up,
“Do you think that it could replace the polygraph test?’
The inventor chuckles,
“I very much doubt that, the technology just isn’t refined enough to--”
The judge speaks up again,
“What if you had the right funding and research-- could it, at least potentially, replace the polygraph?”
The inventor pauses for a moment.
“Well... I mean... It’s still in early stages, so at this point anything is possible really.”
“It’s certainly what I thought of,” says the first judge.
The general murmur of agreement is heard from the audience.
“I really think you’re underestimating the potential of your program.” says the second judge.
“Absolutely,” says the second judge.
The inventor, turns to look at the Emotigraph of his brother and sister-in-law on the screen.
“It’s certainly... a possibility.” he says meekly.
“Okay, let’s take a look at the transcript.”
says Jim as brings it up on the first monitor.
“Now, what sticks out to you just looking at what he said?”
Carl looks over the transcript from the interrogation.
“Well, he says that he’s never even met James Benson. “ he says
“Alright well bring the file up on the Polytypograph and find where he says that.”
Carl drags the text from the first screen to the second. A loading bar appears on the screen, with the text “PROCESSING.”
Jim slouches down in his chair,
“It’s gonna be a minute, so while we wait, I gotta ask-- do you think he did it?”
“It’s gonna be a minute, so while we wait, I gotta ask-- do you think he did it?”
Carl sits back, and turns to face Jim. “Well, if I had to go with my gut--”
Jim smiles, his bright teeth peeking through his dark moustache.
“Second best tool after this thing.”
Carl lets out a glimmer of a smile, before continuing,
“I’d have to say... yes. Yes sir, I think he did it. Man didn’t sit right by me.”
The monitor let out a “BEEP” and the two officers turned back to the screen.
“Well,” Jim says as he adjusts his chair,
“let’s see how your gut compares to the Emotigraph.”
“Overall,” says the first judge.
“I believe you have a very unique invention. It’s certainly one of the most interesting things I’ve had to consider.”
“Thank you,” says the inventor nervously.
“I’m going to vote ‘yes,’ but only on one condition.”
The inventor looks equal parts excited and nervous.
“Oh! Uh, y-yes absolutely! What would that be?”
The first judge smiles,
“I’m only voting for you, if you explore those other options we talked about. You’ve put a lot of effort into this program, I don’t want it to just be some novelty program people download-- I want you to have a seriously product to present to your investors, do you understand?”
The inventor hesitates only for a moment before responding,
“Yes... I can agree to that.”
“Okay!” says the host “Let’s hear from our second judge.”
“I agree with Barbara. I think this absolutely has potential. Our investors would definitely be interested in it if it’s something more than a complex keepsake maker.”
The third judge speaks before he’s even introduced,
“And you know it’s a ‘yes’ from me!”
The audience laughs and claps as the camera pans to the host.
“Well, the Emotigraph certainly had a great response from the judges, now we just have to hope at least one of our guest investors share that enthusiasm!”
“There, see that?”
“There’s a five millimeter difference in letter size when he says ‘James.’ Now, what does that mean to you?”
“Sir? Doesn’t the program tell us?”
Jim smirks, shaking his head.
“The program only picks up on the bigger differences. If it’s something more subtle, it takes some... interpretation.”
Carl frowns, looking at Jim.
“But, isn’t that a little... unreliable? What if he just knows somebody else named James, and that’s why he slightly emphasized it?”
Jim looks at Carl, a stern look on his face.
“Look kid, you think he did it right?”
“Yes sir, but--”
Jim slammed his hand down,
“But nothing! You think he did it, I think he did it, and the program says that he reacted to the name ‘James’. That’s more than enough in my book! So, one more time-- What does that five millimeter size difference mean to you, Officer Johnson?”
Carl swallows hard.
“I-it means that he knows James Benson sir.”
Jim slapped him on the shoulder and laughed loudly.
“There you go!”
He stands up and retrieves a piece of paper from the printer.
“Fill out the form, and I’ll make sure the Emotigraph and that statement get to the prosecutor.”
“Well, there you have it folks!” the host says wrapping his arm around the shoulder of the inventor.
“Frank here got his invention picked up by not one, not two, but all three of our guest investors! What do you have to say about that Frank?”
Frank beaming, leans into the microphone eagerly.
“It’s amazing! I can’t believe they see so much potential in the Emotigraph! My wife always said it was a ‘million dollar idea,’ but I never knew it would get this kind of reaction!”
The host laughs and the audience claps loudly.
“That’s great Frank! Well, any send-off for the viewers at home!”
Frank leans into the microphone again, looking into the camera.
“Yes, if you’re interested in downloading the beta version of the Polytypography program, please check out Emotigraph dot com!”
Carl sits on the bench outside the courtroom. Jim walks over and sits down next to him.
“Kid!” he exclaims, grabbing and jostling him by the shoulder.
“You did great! The jury thought you were a real expert.”
Carl nods solemnly, and smiles weakly.
“Thank you sir. I was pretty nervous up there. I’ve never testified in a big case before.”
Jim chuckles wryly, patting Carl on the back.
“Well, you did good. And, judging by the way the jury looked when you were talking, helped make sure that scumbag goes away for a long time.”
Carl looks at Jim, slightly shocked.
Jim nods as he stand up.
“Definitely, people love all this fancy new tech-- even if they don’t understand it.”
Jim walks away, as Carl remains on the bench.
He sits there, staring at the courtroom door.