Intelligent Video system analyzes facial expressions in real time

Intelligent Video, a product of ooVoo and Affectiva, analyzes facial expressions in real time. Image via ooVoo.
Intelligent Video, a product of ooVoo and Affectiva, analyzes facial expressions in real time. Image via ooVoo.

For people who use video chat services to catch up with someone close—a beloved grandma or dear friend—it’s pretty easy to read the cues and reactions of a familiar face.

But in video chats among a group of people, say a business meeting among different offices, reading and correctly interpreting the facial cues of others can be difficult.

Now a Waltham company’s software is being used in a video system to analyze the facial reactions of participants to deduce their emotional state in real-time. The emotion-gauging software, Affdex from Affectiva Inc., is layered inside the Intelligent Video group chat system from ooVoo LLC, a New York firm.

The software can provide helpful feedback to people leading a group session, such as a webinar, said Rana el Kaliouby, Affectiva’s chief science officer. In a webinar, for example, Affdex can take the pulse of the audience and send an urgent signal to the boring lecturer that listeners are not engaged: Stop. Tell a joke. And try to explain that equation better.

Affdex’s analytics draw on a huge database of more than 2 million videos of people’s faces from different continents. Kaliouby said the ability to sense emotions during video chats represents “a new frontier in mobile communications.” She developed the technology while a researcher at the Affective Computing Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab.

In business settings, among other applications, ooVoo’s Intelligent Video can be used to conduct market research among virtual focus groups, or to conduct job interviews online, said JP Nauseef, managing director at Myrian Capital and ooVoo Labs, who sits on the boards of the financial firm’s portfolio companies, Affectiva and ooVoo.

Jim Stengel, a former high ranking marketing executive at Procter & Gamble who is now an advisory board member of Myrian Capital, said the video system offers new ways for both researchers and marketers to understand people’s reactions. To him, the opportunities recall the early days of mobile technology with endless possibilities.

ooVoo this summer launched Flinch, a mobile app that shows off the company’s emotional tracking technology in a fun way: the game judge who cracks the first hint of a smile between two people playing a staring contest over a video chat system.