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Technology to track emotion

25 July 2012, 11:35

Cape Town - A new technology that analyses facial expressions could help companies determine what consumers are thinking and help them plan more targeted advertising.

"It's been used in the [United] States for more than 13 years by Fortune 500 companies; there're also case studies that prove that it works," Brandon Bester, co-founder of Neural Sense told News24.

The technology is roughly examined as a plot device in the TV crime drama Lie to Me, starring Tim Roth as Dr Cal Lightman.

But the science behind the technology is sound, and is indicative of the earliest steps in human evolution, said Bester.

"If you think about it, before human beings had spoken words or written communication to express the way that we feel, the way that we've evolved to communicate with each other was via our facial expressions."


Companies use the facial recognition technology to gauge how customers respond to particular adverting campaigns and may lead to more targeted and effective placements.

Bester said that the technology is legal in SA and may give companies an edge to target advertising to a demographic that may find it most appealing.

"In fact, it is probably preferable for a business to use techniques like this when testing their advertising."

He rejected suggestions that the practice was unethical and said that it would allow companies to enhance their multi-platform communications with consumers.

"We take the approach that we're trying to improve the communication that business send out to customers," said Bester.

There are no plans to roll out facial recognition technology to TV and computer screens, ATMs, and public touch panels to gauge what the public is thinking as in the book 1984 by George Orwell.

Bester said that the technology augments personal intuition about a conversation partner.

Cultural boundaries

"Understanding human emotion is very important and to a degree we are all facial coders. If you and I are chatting in person, you can probably tell if I'm deceiving you because you can tell whether I'm giving you a true smile or rather a social smile.

"What this technology does is it essentially takes those principles and utilises them in a scientific way to improve a customer's advertising," he said.

The technology works across racial, gender and cultural boundaries so it should be able to concluded effective results despite unique backgrounds.

"Facial expressions are universal, so regardless of gender; race, so that technology can work across gender and racial borders," said Bester.

However, he declined to indicate whether any technology is able to provide men with additional insight into what women are thinking.

"As men we can still read the female expressions, but when comes to digging deeper into the female brain, that requires an extra bit of talent."


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