It was bad enough in the old days to be nattering away and see your listeners sneak a look at their watches. But by next Christmas the situation could be worse: The time-checker may be suggesting that you are not a bore but a bloody liar. Electronics marketer Carmine Pellosie is now perfecting a $29.95 lie-detector watch. It will look like an ordinary digital, except for eight telltale red diodes on the face. These will register the amount of stress in the voice of a speaker. “When you tell a lie you’re under stress,” Pellosie explains, and the greater the stress the more diodes light up. “You’ve heard of Big Brother—well, this is Little Brother,” he chuckles. “Now you can ask a waiter if the clam chowder is really fresh.”
Pellosie, 37, is vice-president of Communication Control Systems Ltd., a manufacturer of Dick Tracy-esque security equipment. Its anti-wiretap devices include “bug” detectors and infrared night-vision systems. The company’s best-seller is its voice-stress analyzer—a 30-lb. lie detector. When that instrument could be miniaturized to a computer chip smaller than a peppercorn, the watch became possible.
The company is currently negotiating—for a seven-figure sum—the marketing rights to the watch, which will be peddled as an adult toy. “How well the device works depends on the person who’s using it,” Pellosie says. (A 40-page instruction manual will be part of the package.) CCS does not want to act as the distributor because the company’s credibility could suffer if the watch is misused by amateurs. A person’s voice, for example, could indicate stress for other reasons than prevarication. A prototype has been tested, using tapes of criminal confessions, and scored an accuracy rate of 85 percent. Right now the wearer must look at the dial constantly to take stress readings, but there’s a more sophisticated design on the drawing board that will indicate stress levels with tiny electric shocks to the wrist.
Pellosie, long an electronics freak, was trained in lie-detection work in the Army, and the house he shares with wife Lee and son Carmine, 12, in Paterson, N.J. is fitted with all sorts of gadgetry. Needless to say, if he comes home late, Pellosie has to have the right explanation, and no matter how rich CCS gets, it’s not the sort of company where employees are going to mess around with their expense accounts.