I've been writing for Windows NT Magazine since it launched approximately 3 years ago. In that time, I've faced only one moral dilemma when reviewing a product: when I reviewed a network-monitoring package that showed the actual contents of people's email and Web page visits. I found myself in a similar situation when I sat down to write a review of Truster 2.4, truth-verification software from Seem Software. Yes, you read that right: truth verification, as in lie detection.
An Israeli software company developed Truster to help the Israeli government identify terrorists before they entered the country. Seem Software markets Truster internationally.
Truster analyzes subtle stresses in the human voice. The software accepts voice input from a microphone or over the telephone. A special handset jack provided with the software connects the telephone to your computer. The computer system running Truster must support sound input through a microphone jack.
My Lie-Detection Experiment
I installed Truster on my Compaq laptop, which runs NT Workstation 4.0 (with Service Pack 3--SP3) and has a microphone jack. The first time I ran Truster, I used a standard computer microphone, but the software objected to its input volume level. (Apparently, the microphone wasn't sensitive enough for Truster.) When I tried a higher-quality, unidirectional microphone, the number of low-volume errors decreased but didn't stop.
I called Seem Software about these low-volume errors, and the technical support department directed me to a section in the user's manual that explains how to disconnect your laptop from its AC power source when you run the software. According to Seem Software, the lack of proper grounding circuits in laptops creates noise on the sound input line when users plug laptops into an AC power source. In retrospect, I should have installed Truster on a desktop system. I thought about reinstalling the software, but obtaining a license for Truster (which involves a phone call to Seem Software during business hours) was painful enough the first time.
When I had Truster up and running, I wondered how I'd test the software. After all, Truster's creators didn't design the software to catch playful lies (e.g., people lying about their age). On the contrary, Truster identifies people who lie in response to questions such as: Have you ever been arrested? Have you ever been unfaithful to your partner? Have you ever driven drunk? Do you use drugs? Incorrectly answering these kinds of questions generates the kind of stress that Truster detects. Truster does more than detect lies. The software can also tell if the interviewee is evading an answer, unsure of an answer, or trying to avoid a direct answer or outsmart the interviewer.
I considered hooking Truster up to my telephone and calling my wife, but then I came to my senses. I also considered interviewing my employees and my boss, but decided I might learn some things that I didn't really want to know. Fortunately, fate delivered a solution to my problem: The Windows NT Magazine Lab had an open house. I showed Truster to the partygoers, many of whom volunteered to undergo examination. To be sure, I didn't grill these volunteers, but I asked them enough questions to determine whether Truster lived up to its reputation.
Determining whether someone is telling the truth is easy: Truster flashes a green light. When the interviewee speaks an untruth, Truster flashes a red light. Screen 1 shows the Truster user interface (i.e., the interface the interviewer sees). I tested the software on approximately 12 volunteers, and the software was accurate in most cases. (Some people definitely lie better than others do.) Truster provides valuable input about people's responses to questions.
The Truth Is Out There
Truster isn't a must-have program for an NT environment. However, given its low price, Truster might be an amusing and useful tool to have when you talk to sales representatives and repair agents. You might be surprised at what Truster tells you when you ask someone, "Are you really going to fix my phone line tomorrow?" or "Does your product work under NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition?" or (best of all) "Is that the lowest price you can give me?"
As a popular TV show proclaims, "The truth is out there." With Truster, you actually have a shot at finding the truth.
| Contact: Seem Software * 718-439-3917 or 888-279-3939|
System Requirements: 100MHz Pentium processor or better, Windows NT, Windows 98, or Win95, 16MB of RAM, CD-ROM drive, 16-bit stereo sound card, Win95-compatible sound card, Win95-compatible video card, Standard telephone with a receiver base (no cordless telephones)