Tech startup building facial-expression recognition software for Google Glass

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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A San Diego-based tech startup announced Thursday its next round of funding will put emotion-reading software in wearable tech like Google Glass, which will accurately track and measure human sentiments through its onboard camera.

Emotient has raised $8 million total for its research and development since 2012, with $6 million alone going to wearable tech, where the company hopes to eventually become the main emotion analysis engine for “any connected device with a camera.”

“We believe our technology is differentiated in its ability to deliver sentiment and emotional insights in real-time and in its accuracy in uncontrolled environments, such as a crowded store,” Emotient spokeswoman Vikki Herrera told TechCrunch.

The company’s first “glassware” app will be marketed to the retail sector, and allow sales employees wearing Glass to gauge customers’ emotional responses to sales pitches and techniques in real-time. The app will also provide feedback to help customize conversational responses to individual customers, all of which can be used for training or active assistance in the field.

“Emotient’s Sentiment Analysis Glassware demonstrates our goal to emotion-enable any manner of device and build the next layer of automatic sensors,” Emotient CEO Ken Denman said in the company’s blog. “It’s a breakthrough technology that allows companies to aggregate customer sentiment by processing facial expressions anonymously. We believe there is broad applicability for this service to improve the customer experience, particularly in retail.”

The technology is capable of gauging and tracking generally positive, negative and neutral sentiments, and specifically recognizing surprise, joy, sadness, fear, anger, contempt and disgust along with 19 facial muscle movements hinting at complex responses like confusion or frustration.

“All good business leaders know ‘you get what you measure’, and being able to objectively and accurately monitor customer sentiment allows retail teams to build plans and tactics to win,” Denman said in a statement. “The ability to measure real-time customer sentiment, as it relates to customer service, products and merchandising is a huge opportunity for businesses to drive focus and therefore sales.”

Company founders believe the tech has the potential to go beyond just retail and could eventually enter fields of use in medicine and psychology.

Emotient has already successfully used the tech in Android tablets, and with investors like Intel getting in on the funding, the company expects emotion recognition to spill into a broad range of applications, devices and services.

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