Does Data Have Feelings?

Can you imagine your alarm clock knew if you slept badly and chose your favorite song to raise your spirits? Or that your TV chose for you that movie you needed today to make you smile? Or that your car suggests you to stop to grab a cup of coffee?

These premises, which until now were part of science fiction cinema, from classics like Blade Runner to more current hits like Her, may be closer to reality. Thanks to the convergence of technologies of analysis of emotions, Big Data, and Internet of Things (IoT). Both are being researched in the European project MixedEmotions.

Of course data does not have feelings. But people do have them. We leave a trace or fingerprint of those emotions in the form of data. And we increasingly are able to analyse this data much better, using Big Data and IoT technologies.

Bringing intelligence and emotions with Big Data

The truly revolutionary project ‘MixedEmotions’ is the application of big data technologies in the analysis of emotions. The aim is to process massive collective emotional behavior, or relate and extract intelligence of multiple emotional data and behavior.

The digital footprint everybody of us leaves in our everyday behavior is increasing. The reason is simple, because more and more we use smart devices around us recording our behavior. Some examples are:

  • We have a clock that measures our heartbeats
  • A phone that listens to our tone of voice
  • A GPS that knows where we are going
  • A car that knows if we’re driving aggressively or slower than normal
  • The mobile cameras, in the tablet and even on TV that not only serve to make selfies. In the future they could observe us and try to understand how we feel – if we allow them do so!

The business perspective

Applying big data analysis to all these data leads to lots of information. The software has an increasing complete picture of how we feel and what we are longing for. And thus helps us or help businesses to give us better services based on our individual emotional situation. Some envisioned scenarios include:

  • The smart car, that detects whether you’re worried, happy or excited. Based on this it finds the most suitable music for your emotional state.
  • The smart car, that suggest you stop at your favorite coffee shop to grab a coffee if you are stressed
  • The refrigerator, that suggests you that today is a day to skip the diet and offers you sweets
  • The computer, that realises whether you are stressed, tired or overdrived. It suggests you to think twice if you really want to send that email you just wrote in a rush.
  • Your alarm clock, that knows that you have not slept well and wakes you up in a milder form.
  • The TV, that automatically tunes the channel most appropriate to your mood.

Thinking a bit more from the business point of view, consider for example this future scenario for a call center supervisor: emotions of both client and operator are tracked in real time for all calls.

When a specific threshold of anger or stress is reached, the supervisor is flagged to listen to the conversation and help the operator. Or he even takes care of the call himself to solve the conflict before it gets out of hand. The emotion level of all operators are also measured and averaged over time. Therefore the manager can detect patterns indicating problematic behaviors and help those operators to improve. How useful is this for the call center manager and for the quality of the service?

Responsibility in the use of technology

The question that comes up when talking about these possibilities is: to what extent do these technologies invade our intimacy and privacy? It is clear that as technology advances, the same power that gives us advantages that until now were unimaginable, becomes a threat if used without our permission. It is a problem we already face today and there is no doubt that it will have more and more importance in the future. Legal protection and the responsibility of enterprises will play a key role in harnessing technological progress in the right direction.

We strongly believe in the use of these technologies. Companies can learn more and know their clients better, with prior authorization, and thus giving them much better services to call centers and beyond.

MixedEmotions is an European Research project an innovative two-year research program. It involves five companies and four European universities. With a budget of more than 3.5 million euros, it aims to search, identify, classify and characterize the emotions in large volumes and data sources by applying Big Data analysis technologies.

Paradigma Digital ( is a technology company specializing in digital solutions and Internet. We develop all our projects in velocity mode relying on three pillars: exceptionally talented people, technologically differential solutions (such as Big Data, Cloud, NoSQL, decoupled architectures), and methodologies like SCRUM, DevOps and Continuous Delivery to guarantee high speed, efficiency and quality in the development of digital products. We are partners of reference companies like RedHat, Amazon, Google or MongoDB who count on us for the integration of their solutions.

Photo by Wonderlane (Flickr)