Digital emotions processing & a new start-up program by Paypal

We struggle to better ourselves, to understand more how emotions, personality traits and other characteristics influence the way we shop, do business and interact. It’s not only useful to better understand our own reactions, but also for companies that rely on predicting a positive or negative behavior based on past experiences, likes, dislikes and attitudes towards certain events or political doctrines.

Some go to the extent to which they manipulate what their users see, as Facebook did in January 2012 (paywall), while others have other, less intrusive approaches. The less intrusive approach is, of course, much preferred and it can rule out any government investigations, as in the case of Facebook, due to consent issues. But let’s go back to the three examples that I’ve seen at the Minibar Meetup last week.

Digital emotions processing

It’s somehow ironic how a lifeless, emotionless computer can be taught to read and process our emotions. Some may argue that this is the sure path to androids and to robots taking over the world, manipulating our thoughts and forcing us to make decisions in their favor. I have a less apocalyptic view of the fact and these three companies, their business models and their customers confirm my judgement.

So there’s VisualDNA, who combines psychological testing with big data analysis. For ordinary people, this means that they help them understand themselves better. For businesses, they contribute to a better understanding of customer behavior. Their main revenue stream comes from selling data and, what I found to be the most interesting, a new way of calculating credit risk by examining the psychological profile. Mastercard has already paid for this product and they made no effort to hide that in their presentation.

And there’s Position Dial, a site that helps you explore where you stand on the issues you care about – and matches you with politicians and brands who act in line with your position. They also show you the different sides of every story: left, right and beyond, to help you make your own mind up fast. They have no revenue stream right now, but seem to be built on social stereotypes and labels and might be useful for political & social awareness campaigns. Their presentation was rather dull, but the product is interesting if you give it a second thought.

The last ones were the worst, if you take just their presentation into consideration. Crowd Emotion was the most interesting product showcased that evening. They use video technology to detect emotions via the facial expression captured from people all over the world. This can be culturally challenging, but they are expanding the comparison base to make the software even more accurate. They make money by selling video hours processed by their platform and have a huge applicability potential in customer service, interactive POS advertising, customer satisfaction, but also in clinical conditions – psychologist and psychiatrists can better analyze patient data and share results with their peers.

The world will become more creepily predictable once these type of businesses become the norm in advertising, market research, healthcare and so on.

Paypal’s new startup program

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They were the sponsors of the entire Minibar Meetup, so they held their presentation first. The Blueprint Program that they have in place for startups can mainly be accessed through accelerators, but they also allow direct applications for select companies. You would think that just by providing free transactions up to 50k would be enough, but no. They went a step further and added customer service support and mentoring with their development teams as an extra benefit to the entire scheme.

So if you think your startup might benefit from it, here are the eligibility criteria:

  • IT&C company with a focus of e/m-offline-commerce
  • privately held
  • have a Paypal account and have not breached ToS
  • you have not applied before
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