Today we have had an amazing speech in Barcelona with Alberto Betella, current CTO in Badi, holding a Ph.D. in Information and Communication Technologies, with a specialization in Affective Computing. His more than 15 years of experience in Software Development and Architecture and his great speaking skills have made us learn a world about empathic adaptive systems.
Do you remember HAL 9000 from Space Odyssey? He could have asked you ‘Are you sad?? or ‘You seem to be upset’. The robot understood people, but more interestingly he detected people’s emotions. This is cinematographic reference gives us an idea of how Betella’s research focus was set.
Far from understanding our emotions, machines actually interpret emotions. They have no emotional experience to emphasize, but the way machines communicate is far way more effective.
Machines can only perform implicit assessments, an analysis of physiological features of the individual, by physiological sensors that extract results on emotions. But skin conductance and heart rate monitors are also integrated to these sensors. Also, the eye tracker used includes an eye pupil dilatation detector, which makes the sensor far more useful.
The aim is to leave the laboratory behind and come closer to the ‘Natural World’, making tests with real reactions. To perform a tracking of an individual playing a video game like they used to do some years ago, telling the individual to maintain a rigid position, telling him or her ‘please don’t move your hand from the sensor’, and not very realistic results were displayed. What it is wanted now is to perform more ‘ecologically valid’ tests. This trend in marketing and user analysis is related to the ethnographic and real internal analysis theories.
His research was partly made using a space they called The eXperience Induction Machine or XIM. Let’s observe how it works:
During the presentation we have seen a demonstration on how this sort of technologies can be very useful in Big Data analysis, for instance, allowing users to be literally inside the data representation and interact with it like we can see in the video. The technology works with the user and changes the data visualization based on its emotions. If the machine detects that the user is overwhelmed by the amount of data it will simplify it, if it detects that the user is getting bored, it will increase the amount of information shown or the speed at which is being displayed. These are just some of the examples that Alberto presented to the audience.
The impact of these new technologies on new products and services
The applications for mobile apps in the future seem quite immediate. We have already observed an exponential growth on devices that can allow us to implement this technology in the real world such as the new iPhone X with its Face ID recognition or some activity trackers in the market. The future of mobile apps will be highly affected by emotional sensors. Badi has started to work on how to implement this technology for their app. For Badi, a mobile app for room rents in big cities, the sensors for people’s emotions could be a very interesting thing to implement for a more tailored user experience.
In KingEclient we have discussed what impact can this technology have on society and on markets.
For example, we were concerned about how can the system distinguish between cultural differences; not all facial expressions mean the same in all countries. In some cultures, a smiley face may mean happiness, while in some other countries, it just means politeness. That is why Alberto told us the importance that the system integrates skin conductance and heart rate monitoring sensors that detect more than only physiological aspects.
Also, we have talked about some applications that can make a big shock, for instance, in the investment banking sector.
Some ethical issues also emerged. Would users be willing to allow this technology to analyze their emotions while using apps? Some statistics made our doubts resolved, as common marketing surveys tell us that customers are willing to swap data with companies and then apps in return for a more personalized experience.
Written by Anna Vicent