DirtyHarry

Later this week I’m expecting to see one of two videos: either a response from Miley Cyrus about all the hubbub regarding her VMA performance, or a speech from President Obama about his decision on Syria. Both will be fascinating, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to know how each speaker felt – really felt – while issuing these statements?

Because we live in the future, something out there attempts to do this. It’s called Beyond Verbal, a kind of emotional tricorder. Based on 18 years of academic research, Beyond has created software that analyzes audio clips in almost any language and deduces the implied emotional state and mood of the speaker. Supposedly it’s pretty accurate too. Launching last May and raising $2.8 million from investors, and then accruing an addition $1 million last July, the company is now working with developers to formulate best possible uses.

Whether you go to Beyond Verbal’s website or engage in a chat with the founders, the first thing the company wants is for you to see the software in action. During my conversation, the Beyond’s marketing VP Dan Emodi and CEO Yuval Mor showed me some video clips. One was an interview with Princess Diana. Another featuring President Obama during one of his debates with then-Republican hopeful Mitt Romney. A third was a clip from Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry.”

The demo was interesting because I was able to read interesting cues, like Obama’s annoyance — which the naked eye wouldn’t notice. In addition, it added another implied narrative to what’s being shown. For Diana you understood she was being truly genuine (or at least the software thought so). Perhaps the best part is that it proved that Clint Eastwood is a superb actor.

That’s great, but what does it mean? Well, that’s the beauty of this company. Beyond is quick to show you all of the ways. Emodi, whose name conjures up, at least for me, emoji (I know there’s a metaphor in here somewhere) sees a future in market research, consumer applications, and even homeland security. At the same time, he says the real potential of its software will ultimately be determined by users and app developers. In a sense, the company knows it has something powerful, but doesn’t know how powerful it could be.

Instead of rolling out the software and granting it to businesses at a price right off the bat, Beyond is implementing a rigorous developer program. There are strict guidelines for enrolling in its Friendly User Trial (FUT). A developer has to submit a pitch. From there, if the pitch is deemed worthy, Beyond undergoes a rigorous process by which it chooses its potential developers. The requirements for being considered are: a clear implementation description — one that takes into account emotion analytics; a “solid track-record in the respected field;” and demonstrated abilities at distribution.

Emodi hasn’t divulged who’s participating but hints that some heavyweights are involved. “We were not prepared for the response we got from household brand names,” he says. This includes some “mega corporations.”

But why? For me Beyond is useful on an intellectual and a potentially creepy/sci-fi level. But, in terms of other applications, it doesn’t seem very useful. Still, Emodi claims the software lets you know what’s going on beneath the veneer. As he put it, it makes us “much more in tuned with our feelings.”

Can that be translated into a service? Obviously Emodi and Mor think so. And given the supposedly vociferous response from developers, they may be right.

Perhaps a tech object that somehow induces empathy is something every market needs.

[Image Credit: Noir Whale]