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Implications of Affective Computing (Emotional AI) for B2B Marketers

Date posted: August 27, 2013

In a recent New York Times article, Jenna Wortham explores the emergence of affective computing, which is, basically, emotional artificial intelligence:

Artificial intelligence is creeping nto our lives at a steady pace. Devices and apps can anticipate what we need, sometimes even before we realize it ourselves. So why shouldn’t they understand our feelings? If emotional reactions were measured, they could be valuable data points for better design and development. Emotional artificial intelligence, also called affective computing, may be on its way.

Examples from the marketplace: Affectiva, a start-up spun out of the M.I.T. Media Lab, are working on software that trains computers to recognize human emotions based on their facial expressions and physiological responses. Beyond Verbal is working on a software tool that can analyze speech and, based on the tone of a person’s voice, determine whether it indicates qualities like arrogance or annoyance, or both.

Wortham notes how the technology is planning to be used by game developers, to give designers insight into how people feel when their games are played. Another potential use: healthcare. Cited in the article, Printa Gupta, chief product officer at Smule, contends that healthcare may be revolutionized by emotionally aware technology, particularly as devices increasingly interact with one another.

“Tracking how our bodies are responding throughout the day could allow you to tailor your life according to what’s happening to your body throughout the day,” she
says. This could allow nutritionists to precisely build meal plans for clients, or for doctors to come up with more efficient medical treatments.

For B2B marketers obsessed with customer satisfaction, the idea of tooling a sales force with affective computing tools may seem intriguing. Is there a day coming soon when we won’t have to rely on customer surveys or focus groups to see how a product or brand elicits a response? Simply dial up the customer on a smart device and see how his face or
voice tells the story when a product or brand is named.

While this may seem far-fetched, the continuing advance of technology makes it seem less so over time.