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Demo Traction: This start-up can read your poker face

Lucas Mearian | Sept. 17, 2015
Facial recognition tech can even tell how a jury will judge a defendant.

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Emotion, whose software uses video streams for emotion detection and sentiment analysis based on facial expressions, recognizes anger. Credit: IDG

BOSTON -- The cameras inside a McDonalds recently captured the facial expressions of customers and employees. Every tick, twitch, smile or frown was fed into a computer algorithm.

The algorithm, from start-up Emotient, determined how everybody was feeling about the service: Employees who were stressed out during the lunch hour rush transmitted their stress to customers. Customers were also more unhappy while waiting for their order than when they were waiting to order in the first place.

Emotient, whose software uses video streams for emotion detection and sentiment analysis based on facial expressions, is targeting retail, legal and advertising firms -- any market where reading people's emotions can give them an edge.

The company was among dozens being showcased yesterday at the DEMO Traction Enterprise here.

Emotient CEO Ken Denman said the facial recognition software is faster and less expensive than focus groups, which are also highly inaccurate.

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The face of contempt. Credit: IDG

"No one tells the truth for a myriad of reasons," Denman said. "Fundamentally, we're disrupting the model for pre-testing in media and ads and...other areas like legal and politics where there are high-value messages that people want to deliver and they want to test those messages...and the stakes are high," Denman said.

Emotient's software keys in on seven base emotions, plus frustration and confusion. The emotions include: joy, sadness, anger, fear, contempt, surprise and disgust.

"We're over 95% accurate across all the major detectors," Denman said.

Emotient's emotion detection software has even been tested in courtrooms, using video of juries to determine how the jurors feel about a closing argument.

Much of the product pre-testing with Emotion's analysis tools is delivered to a demographically selected audience using an online survey platform, which is integrated with RESTful APIs. A group of people who've agreed to be surveyed and recorded login and watch movie trailers, commercials and ad campaigns, for example.

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Emotient, whose software uses video streams for emotion detection and sentiment analysis based on facial expressions, recognizes "joy." Credit: IDG

Their emotional responses are then logged and sent to the vendor, which can use the results to tailor their products, marketing or ad campaigns.

Emotient's software records at 30 frames per second, so no facial expression, no matter how subtle is missed. There's no way to cover those emotions up with a poker face, according to Marian Bartlett, founder and lead scientists at Emotient.

 

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