The ultimate application for marketers and social science researchers is the coming ability of TVs to read the emotions of people watching.
MIT researchers are working on software that can harvest emotional states of millions of TV watchers at the same time.
First, MIT's software identifies the face, then specific features about that face. It then tracks changes on 22 points around the face, and even monitors texture and color of skin to determine emotion.
The reason companies want this is that it becomes the ultimate tool both for improving the quality of programming and also the relevance of advertising.
The MIT research specifically looks at replacing Nielsen-type ratings, which have been vitally important to the television industry even though they are the bluntest of survey tools. Real-time emotion harvesting could tell the studios exactly where audiences were thrilled, bored or horrified. For example, many shows might be successful if not for one character or one scene that ruins it for audiences.
The Microsoft patent is all about advertising. The idea is to combine location, gender, age and other metrics to the specific moods of people in the room. This would enable advertising to reflect people's feelings and become more relevant.
But people will want this too, and not only because it will improve both shows and commercials.
A new era of social TV watching is coming soon, where you’ll be able to share a movie or watch TV together with your friends, even if they’re in a different location. Sharing the emotions of everyone watching via icons or avatars on the edge of the screen will make it more social – and more enjoyable.
Technology that understands, responds to and conveys emotion is a certainty. It's coming. And almost everyone will accept and even enjoy it. Here's why.
We're emotional creatures. If we're frustrated with our laptops or phones, we deep down want them to empathize with us and treat us differently because of it. Our brains are hard-wired that way.
We use our gadgets to communicate. And communication that fails to convey our emotions causes problems. E-mail is a perfect example. People constantly misread the intent of email because they can't tell the emotional state of the sender.
Companies hoping to sell us things will really use this technology, because relevant advertising is effective advertising.
Emotional computing is coming. And it's nothing to cry about. On the contrary, we should be happy about it!