Understanding how we react and make decisions is at the core of how we interact with those around us. Either in our personal lives or in business, getting know what others are feeling is more important than ever. Brands have long understood that they need more than just logic to engage customers. Coca-Cola and Pepsi rely more on emotional resonance and memorable advertising to make an impression on buyers, not so much subjective taste tests (or worse yet, fake taste tests). The same goes for virtually all marketing campaigns. But getting to know your customers is a monumental task. Now the field of emotional analytics has arrived. Its major customers might be advertisers, but applications have been made to focus on employees, healthcare and disease progression, as well as linguistic analysis.
Here are 10 of the most vital startups in the space of “emolytics” today from around the world.
Headquarters (and other locations): Waltham, Massachusetts
Amount raised (latest round): $33.72 million ($14 million Series D, May 2016)
Investors: WPP, National Science Foundation, Fenox Venture Capital, Horizons Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Byers (KPCB), Myrian Capital
Founders: CEO Rana el Kaliouby, Rosalind Picard
An MIT Media Lab spin-off, Affectiva calls itself the pioneer in Emotion AI. They use computer vision and a massive emotions database with 4 million separate facial expressions to track and summarize expressed emotions. The database includes samples from 75 countries, helping account for possible differences across cultures.
“We envision a future where our mobile and IoT devices can read and adapt to human emotions, transforming not only how we interact with hyper-intelligent technology, but also how we communicate with each other in a digital world,” Rana el Kaliouby said last year after their last fundraising round. “We build artificial emotional intelligence that senses, models and adapts to human emotion and behavior. It is a big, exciting vision for artificial intelligence, as it realizes the practical business application of AI and fuels innovation in many global markets.”
2. Beyond Verbal
Website: Beyond Verbal
Headquarters (and other locations): Tel Aviv, Israel
Amount raised (latest round): $10 million ($3 million, September 2016)
Investors: Kuang-Chi Science, Singulariteam, Omninet Capital, Winnovation
Founders: SVP BizDev Yoav Hoshen, Yuval Mor
Beyond Verbal claims to be one of the only companies in the world giving literal emotional feedback in terms of analytics, but unlike other members of this list they aren’t reliant on facial recognition. They track voice patterns, keeping track of lonely family members and finding ways to apply the technology to the dating world by matching people according to attitudes and moods. They have pivoted from focusing on marketing to healthcare, pioneering a study with the Mayo Clinic to link voice patterns to progressive heart disease.
They have demonstrated their emolytic capabilities by analyzing Donald Trump during last year’s Republican primary debates and his combative exchanges with people such as former Fox News host Megyn Kelly.
This company, perhaps more than others, is producing technology that might have a massive impact on the way voice assistants and spoken translation technologies work in the future, choosing to respond to statements or questions with specific tones or translations that reflect the nuance of a bad (or good) mood.
With major clients like Google, 20th Century Fox, Unilever, Pepsi, and Jaguar, Lightwave is employing the go-big-or-go-home strategy to try to dominate the conversation on emolytics. They have been found analyzing not just audiences behind the TV screen but also crowds at large sporting events such as the NCAA basketball championship between UNC and Villanova. That’s 72,000 people during a single game by reading facial responses every 10th of a second. They have also used their technology to, similar to Beyond Verbal, take a hard look at the 2016 election with emotional reactions to speeches by Hillary Clinton.
“Any business that has a customer is going to be affected by the ability to measure the emotional reaction of the customer,” Founder and CEO Rana June told Inc in 2016, predicting these changes would be seen across the board “very, very soon. I want to say ‘today.'”
Website: BehaviorMatrix, @BehaviorMatrix
Headquarters (and other locations): Blue Bell, Pennsylvania
Amount raised (latest round): $1.7 million debt financing
Founders: Chairman & CEO Bill Thompson
BehaviorMatrix measures and interprets emotions, behaviors and influence around global communications. They describe their approach as helping companies understand people with deeper insights that “allow them to act to affect positive change.” They have real-time emotion-measuring tools for customers and larger versions to track influencers in a given industry or among a given demographic. Similar to Beyond Verbal, they have applied their technology to healthcare with a study of emotional expression in diabetes information forums online.
“BehaviorMatrix illuminates the ‘micro data’ within data streams to reveal the real insights, and we aim to dramatically disrupt the business intelligence and Data Science worlds,” Thompson wrote after the company debuted the SMARTview360 to take real-time measurements of 48 separate emotions on various media, including social.
“Traditional measurements of likes or dislikes, positives or negatives can be shots in the dark that provide marginal results,” wrote CPO Keith Harry in 2015. “This ability to understand the context of data is powered by our Natural Language Processing Engine that operates like the human brain when processing language.”
“Actually understanding hearts and minds allows us to help our customers not only interpret, but also effectively predict future behavior.”
Headquarters (and other locations): Lausanne, Switzerland
Founders: CEO Tim Llewellynn
nViso boasts what it calls “the most scalable, robust, and accurate artificial intelligence solutions” for instant emotional analysis of consumers on the market, focusing their business on major brands and advertising. They say they have original 3D facial imaging technology that works with “ordinary webcams” to gauge consumers’ responses online.
Headquarters (and other locations): San Francisco, California
Amount raised (latest round):
Kanjoya Investors: Acquired by Ultimate Software; Allegro Venture Partners, Ulu Ventures, SV Angel, Ronald Conway, FLOODGATE, D.E. Shaw & Co., Constantin Partners
Founders: Kanjoya CEO Armen Berjikly
Kanjoya is different than other entries here for the simple reason that they focus on your company’s workforce, not its customers. Employee satisfaction of late has been recognized as equally important to growing businesses as customer service, understanding that happy employees tend to produce better work.
They were acquired by Ultimate Software in September 2016, simultaneously launching UltiPro Perception to measure employee experience within companies.
“Effective workforce decisions require a delicate balance of employee emotions and motivations, layered with business metrics,” their website reads, describing the program. “With our machine learning-based models, you can make those decisions with comprehensive insights and predictive power.”
Headquarters (and other locations): London, England
Amount raised (latest round): $9.2 million ($2.5 million debt financing, 2015)
Investors: Entrepreneurs Fund (EF), SmartCap AS, European Commission, European Regional Development Fund
Founders: Martin Salo, Elnar Hajiyev, CEO Mihkel Jäätma
Realeyes gets people to share access to their personal webcams, from which they can use their own computer vision algorithms and machine learning to track expressions during broadcasts, advertisements, and other media. Taking this visual feedback, they can help content creators to learn from their mistakes and put together videos that audiences will want to engage with. They offer 24-hour report turnarounds for $3,500, according to their website. It works by dragging and dropping a given video into the Realeyes dashboard and defining audience segments and can analyze up to 300 people at a time.
Website: iMotions, @iMotionsGlobal
Headquarters (and other locations): Copenhagen, Denmark (Boston, Massachusetts)
Amount raised (latest round): $4.3 million ($2.7 million, 2007)
Investors: Inventure Capital, Syddansk Venture, The Way Forward Aps
Founders: CEO Peter Hartzbech
The company focuses on supporting research teams at universities and within larger companies, saying their software supports more than 50 market-available biosensors and eye sensors that will help collect data and produce observations with their machine learning technology. Nielsen, Deloitte, P&G, and Harvard University are listed as customers on the company website. Their team has also worked with Stanford to track eye movements by drivers in what they say is one of the most advanced driving simulators in the world.
They also announced a partnership back in 2015 with previous list entry Affectiva to better integrate emotional analytics with biometric research with iMotions Founder & CEO Peter Hartzbech saying at the time, “Measuring unfiltered and unbiased emotional responses is key to understanding human behavior in consumer engagement and user experience.”
CrowdEmotion is a British company whose platform for facial expression provides insights on emotional expression. Their other platform, MeMo, can be used for two-way video chat and self-analysis to better help with personal engagement tactics in business or for your own personal growth. They have been working with the BBC for the last three years to measure TV audience engagement.
CEO Matthew Celuszak expressed confidence in his technology’s ability to affect the way that media engages with its audiences when they announced that partnership in 2014.
“With today’s media noisier than ever, we’re here to innovate, bring emotions to life and reshape broadcast media through our findings.”
Headquarters (and other locations): Miami, Florida
Amount raised (latest round): $4.26 million ($300,000, 2015)
Investors: Christopher Alden, Eniac Ventures, Florida Angel Nexus, Jeremiah Tolbert, Kapor Capital, Marcelo Ballona, Neil Shah, NewMe Accelerator, New World Angels, Peter Livingston, True Ventures, University Of Central Florida, venVelo
Founders: CEO Brian Brackeen
Kairos defines itself as an AI company. Like many of the companies on this list, they focus largely on facial recognition and use computer vision to process slight differences in facial expressions that will tell viewers what precise emotions someone is experiencing at any given time. Kairos claims that 4,600 developers use their software. Their founder is not one to hide that he thinks his company’s technology will be the foundation of tomorrow’s machines, which should be able to better get a grip on what their human counterparts are feeling when they communicate.
“Machines need to be a lot more empathetic,” Brackeen said in 2015 after buying out New York facial recognition company IMRSV. “They need to better understand who we are so they can serve us.”