Our eyes and facial expressions can reveal a lot, offering companies rich insights into how we respond to certain brands or products in a mall or even to a specific online educational course.
This is being tapped by companies such as Entropik Tech and Mad Street Den using artificial intelligence (AI) to gauge customer response to products and services.
Ranjan Kumar, founder and chief executive of Entropik Tech, uses a branch of AI called Emotion AI to capture data points on emotions and facial expressions and use AI to provide rich insights.
In education, for instance, 60- and 90-minute video conferencing sessions can induce fatigue, and the teacher loses the attention of students. “While the volume of remote learning content in the market is high, their efficacy is unspecified. Emotion AI helps understand fatigue, attention and engagement levels. We analyse facial expressions and voices of students and teachers to offer companies a solution,” Kumar says.
E-learning unicorn Vedantu is one of his biggest clients. Entropik Tech implemented the emotion AI solution for Vedantu in June. Kumar says demand is growing steadily in e-learning, a sector that has seen a massive shift from physical to remote operations due to covid-19.
According to Kumar, other key sectors that are implementing emotion AI include customer service, sales and entertainment, where Entropik currently works with companies such as Flipkart, Viacom18, CavinCare and Tata Consumer Care. No wonder he is excited that his company “has seen four-fold growth in revenue since 2020″. He attributes much of this growth to the pandemic, which enforced remote operations across industries.
Entropik is not the only one.
Indian startup EnableX.io introduced face AI and analysis last year as part of its communication platform-as-a-service product. The company offers emotion intelligence as a key aspect of its face AI service, which seeks to analyse facial expressions of customers to give retailers insights into which products may resonate—and which don’t.
Computer vision startup Mad Street Den is another player in this segment. It offers AI-based solutions for the retail industry to help businesses improve their sales with targeted products. Its product, called Vue.ai, studies user behaviour by tracking usage patterns on shopping sites and maps the same to a pool of product data to improve recommended purchases—thereby increasing sales.
On a global scale, emotion AI businesses have been gaining popularity. One of the biggest global names is Affectiva, born at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Labs in 2009. In early 2021, Affectiva was acquired by Swedish advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) company Smart Eye for $73.5 million. Alongside its existing offering of using emotion AI tools for brands to improve sales, Smart Eye seeks to use the technology in ADAS systems as well.
Other big startups offering emotion AI-based products on a global scale include Shanghai-based Emotibot Technologies, which offers emotion-recognizing robots in sectors such as healthcare and education. Its most recent funding round saw Emotibot raise $31.4 million to increase its product base.
That said, while Emotion AI isn’t exactly new, the technology is being increasingly adopted by businesses. It seeks to recognize and understand human intelligence in reaction to a product or service and offer this data in the form of analytics to product sellers and service providers to improve revenues.
The use of emotion AI is expected to grow exponentially. A report on the use of emotion intelligence by B2B market intelligence firm Markets and Markets states, “The increase in the number of digitalization initiatives across developing countries has led enterprises, both public and private, to deploy emotion AI-based applications. This has led to the development of new business models that may use emotional cues for business processes.”
The report says the emotion AI market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.3% to $3.71 billion by 2026. It claims data protection and information security rules in a growing number of countries are restraining the growth of emotion AI products.
In an interview with News18 in November last year, EnableX.io’s Gupta claimed the emotion recognition service will not identify or track individuals across the internet even though a business might use such services to retain emotion data linked to a customer for future product recommendations. EnableX.io uses its FaceAI API to analyze and measure facial expressions to offer live sales or customer service providers real-time analysis of customer emotions to help businesses offer a more tailored customer service.
Entropik’s Kumar says his service sources data from a pool of 60 million individuals who have given consent through third-party service providers. “We don’t process any video imagery or data, and the data that we draw is emotion as a data level—which has no personal data or information linked to it.”
Explaining how it works, Kumar says, “A brand reaches out to us with the demographic they want to target, and it is then tested with that section of people from our consented audience. Their attention, engagement and other metrics are captured as they sample the product or service, such as an advertisement, and data is sent to the brand to review.”
To be sure, while builders of emotion AI products and services seem enthusiastic about their implementations in the advertisement and entertainment sectors, not all stakeholders sound as enthusiastic.
Kainaz Karmakar, chief creative officer of Ogilvy India, says, “As a creative professional, this is scary. Creativity is a fluid process, and the best results come when you go with the gut. Research has existed for ads for long, and many companies use it. However, creative folk always take it with a pinch of salta.”