Emotion Recognition: Software as a Superhero

emotion recognition superhero
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If you could have one superpower to help your business grow, what would it be? I’ve often thought being able to read the mind of potential customers would be the single best superpower we could possess. We would be able to provide those products and/or services they wanted the most, without them having to ask.

There is a growing field of technology that comes almost terrifyingly close to this superpower, emotional recognition software. Since we can’t read minds (well, most of us anyway), we need to pay close attention to how people communicate, with speech and with physical expression. Seems like something out of a sci-fi movie for machines to be able to read “emotional intelligence”, doesn’t it?

The basics of facial recognition are already infiltrating our day-to-day experiences; Facebook puts a box around faces in photos so you can tag them, Snapchat recognizes where your eyes, nose and mouth are for fun selfie filters (powered by Looksery), and smartphones have “People” albums in their iOS, sorted by the individual’s face.

snapchat looksery
Source: Techcrunch

Emotional recognition software takes this ability further. What applications would this have for your business, if you knew how your customers physically react to your offers? It’s pretty close to having a mind-reading superpower, right?

Identifying Emotion

Charles Darwin was one of the first to write about recognition of emotion in facial expression, publishing The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals in 1872. He argued that all humans show emotion through remarkably similar behaviors, and that emotion had an evolutionary history that could be traced across cultures and species. Psychologists generally agree that certain emotions are universal to all humans, regardless of culture: anger, fear, surprise, disgust, happiness and sadness. (Scientific American)

darwin expressions

Paul Ekman is an American psychologist, who took the study of facial expressions further, to those emotions not encoded in facial muscles: amusement, contempt, contentment, embarrassment, excitement, guilt, pride (in achievement), relief, satisfaction, sensory pleasure, and shame.

How does Emotion Recognition Software work?

Simply put Emotion Recognition Software is the combination of technology with the psychology of those facial expressions first described by Darwin and Ekman. The software is algorithm-driven API, typically using a Bayesian Network probability model, coded with Ekman’s system of classifying human emotions based on facial response.

emotion meme

Applications for Emotion Recognition

The applications are really endless, regardless of industry:

  • Education
    • E-learning by adjusting tactics to student response
  • Medicine
    • Knowing how medication or treatment makes patients feel
    • Developing therapies for those with difficulty vocalizing emotion (Autism, Alzheimer’s)
  • Law
    • Jury assessment
    • Alternative to lie detector testing
  • Security
    • Scanning live event attendees for something other than weapons upon entry
    • Addition to video camera surveillance for threat assessment
  • Entertainment
    • Gaming
    • Virtual Reality
  • Advertising and Marketing
    • Gauging prospect and customer “feels” for better targeting
    • Measuring attention and engagement on a deeper level


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