Apple plants seed for AI’s emotionally intelligent future by buying Emotient

8 Jan 2016

Apple could use AI to forge emotional connections between people and products

Apple has acquired an artificial intelligence (AI) company called Emotient, which uses AI to use technology to read emotions through data and by analysng facial expressions.

Emotient, which is based in San Diego, helps organisations better understand their audience’s response to media, products and experiences through emotion and sentiment analysis.

In September, the company became the only company in the world to secure a patent that allows the anonymisation of images before extracting emotions, not after.

“Think of it as sophisticated pixelating or blurring of an individual’s features – while retaining the expressive information – before transmitting,” said Emotient CEO Ken Denman in September. “So identity is never seen or captured, let alone transmitted.”

Apple’s eye: an emotional connection between people and products

While it is far from clear what Apple intends to do with Emotient, one thing is clear: artificial intelligence works hand in hand with trends like big data.

Apple could use the technology in a plethora of applications and services, from analysing consumers’ reactions and emotions for e-commerce purposes to monitoring satisfaction with apps and advertising.

All the major tech companies in Silicon Valley are razor focused on using AI to improve productivity and capability, but using AI to understand emotions is a clever move by Apple that strives to forge an emotional connection between customers and its products.

Apple regularly buys small tech companies but rarely announces it or makes a big deal about it.

Emotient had previously raised $8m in funding from investors that included Intel and Seth Neiman from Crosspoint Venture Partners.

Emotional intelligence image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years