Scientists are inventing ‘smart machines’ that can read people’s minds – or at least the expressions on their faces.

Groundbreaking research is being carried out into the space age-sounding technology at the University of Southern California.

They are working on machines that can identify human emotions from the expressions on their faces using ’emotional mapping’ techniques.

Because many emotional expressions – such as happy or sad – are universal, scientists believe they can be identified using biometrics and used to improve customer service.

A spokesman said: ‘For example, an ATM machine meets a consumer who squints because he can’t see the small print. The machine figures this out, enlarges the print and solves the problem. It interprets and remembers the information that’s all over the consumer’s face.’

They even believe ‘e-motional’ communications could help diagnose and treat patients with emotional or medical problems.

‘By examining and interpreting facial expressions, technology becomes another tool to treat many debilitating mental or medical conditions,’ said the spokesman.

To do it, scientists – funded by NCR’s Teradata Teradata division – are learning to store and interpret facial expressions.

The spokesman said: ‘The high-tech age is here. Humanising the experience is an inevitable part of the landscape.’