Affectiva’s Face Reading Software Allows Gadgets To Read Your Emotions
Affectiva’s Affdex software forms part of a new concept that will see movies and games reacting to our emotions in order to affect the plot. Portal Entertainment are working with an unidentified network in order to use Affdex to produce a new horror series. The series will rely on a tablet’s cameras to pick up viewers’ facial expressions and emotional reactions to speed up or slow down the plot in real time.
Artificial intelligence startup Affectiva is allowing developers to create technology and gadgets that can interpret emotions based on facial expressions. The software has already been used by some big companies- CBS used Affdex to see how popular new shows would be with viewers and a 2012 Presidential election team used it on a group of voters during a debate.
While Affectiva’s tools have thus far been experimented with by a select number of partners, the tools and applications are now being opened up to everyone. From this week, developers will be able to sign up to a 45 day free trial of the tools before being able to licence them. Affectiva predict that the technology will be embedded into everyday gadgets to sense and adapt to your feelings.
Affectiva began life in 2009 from MIT Media Lab and is now headed by Rana el Kaliouby who created the emotion-sensing technology and has a PhD in computer science from Cambridge University. The software was originally built to help children with autism but there was limited development so el Kaliouby looked to the business world where she had received interest.
The Affdex software works by building a detailed model of the face that takes all features into account and any changes in expression, however small. The algorithm has logged 11 billion facial data points from 2.8 million faces in 75 countries so far. A Facial Action Coding System that tracks 46 different facial movements is what allows the software to identify emotions, by decoding different combinations of the movements to interpret the feelings. The coding system was developed on the 1970s but was worked through manually, meaning it would take five minutes to code one minute of video. The Affdex software uses an algorithm that automates this coding and has been trained to recognise differences in expressions that arise between different faces.
The Affdex technology is now reliable enough to be put to use in varying technology. The software has already been used by Hershey in order to create a video display experience in retail stores- free chocolate samples are dispensed to those who smile at the screen. In addition, startup OoVoo uses the software in its video chat to read chatter’s emotions via intelligent video. Myrian Capital, which invested in OoVoo and Affectiva is looking into using the emotion recognition software in online eduction, focus groups and for political affinity.
While the Affdex software doesn’t store personal data about individual users, Affectiva will have to ensure that developers abide by privacy rules when implementing the technology into their products. Information about emotional states would be very valuable to advertisers, especially if they could pin point certain individuals rather than just groups. Advertising platforms that track your purchases or web searches are one thing, but to track your emotions and then try to sell you products based on them would be completely different. Furthermore, users should understand the basics of the technology before interacting with it so that they’re aware of how it works and can prevent themselves from being manipulated.
While we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of shows that will be compelling to us as individuals, we are slightly more hesitant to think of the further ways in which Affdex may be used to alter the decisions or technology around us based on our emotional state.