Affectiva, an artificial intelligence startup, has designed a program that uses image recognition software to read and determine human emotion. Key points on the human face reveal whether or not they are happy, sad, angry, or many other emotions. The program is even able to determine real smiles from fake ones!
Affectiva is changing how marketers gather data. Focus groups, surveys, and other traditional market research methods are usually subject to some bias. By reading the subject’s facial expression, marketers are able to get a much more accurate understanding of their satisfaction levels. For example, Hershey’s currently uses Affectiva to determine if customers enjoy certain products. They give away free samples in a machine they call the “smile sampler” and the machine determines how much recipients liked the sample based on their facial expression. The results seem positive and they plan to continue expanding their use of the program.
Emotionally intelligent computers can be used for more than just marketing purposes. If companies like Affective continue to develop this type of programming, a future where robots responded to a person just like a good friend would, seems less like science fiction and more like a reality. Imagine if your phone could tell you were in a sad mood and played a song it knows makes you smile based off image recognition technology. Or if your car recognized you were intoxicated and would not start. Affectiva programming cannot do this as of yet, but this is what they are building towards.
The future of Affectiva seems bright, but they do face some issues. Privacy is a big controversy. Do they have the right to gather customers’ facial data and analyze it without their permission? Currently they are doing this, but their Vice President of marketing says a subject’s facial information is deleted shortly after it is analyzed to determine satisfaction levels. This is a reassuring claim by Affectiva, however others who gain access to this technology may not use it as responsibly and potential future legislation could restrict corporate access to this type of consumer data. Also the article failed to mention how accurate the program was. It is hard for me to believe it gets it right every time.
From a business standpoint Affectiva’s programs are fascinating and progressive. There are so many industries where this type of information would be useful. If stores could monitor customers emotions based via their security cameras, they would save a great deal of money on customer surveys and other market research methods. From a technological standpoint, emotionally inelegant computers could become more common. Who knows? In the future maybe our robot pals won’t have to ask, “what’s up?” because they’ll already know.
Darrow, Barb. "Pretty Soon Your Computer Will Know If You're Happy, Sad, or Mad." Fortune Computers Cant Read Your Mind Yet but Theyre Getting Closer Comments. Fortune, 11 Sept. 2015. Web. 09 Feb. 2016. <http://fortune.com/2015/09/11/affectiva-emotient-startups/>.