Emotion tracking could be the key to unlocking attendee data whilst at the same time reducing their time spent filling out feedback forms. Recent patents granted to Facebook could mean the future is closer than we think.
It goes without saying that happy attendees are the best kind of attendees at any kind of event. One of the ways event organizers ensure that they're doing that is by responding to attendee feedback. However, the process of attaining feedback takes time and effort, detracting from the overall event experience. Like many difficult problems faced in the field of science, this is one of those problems where the very act of measuring something changes its output. Does Facebook Have The Answer?
Facebook has recently been granted a patent that will certainly raise a few eyebrows. The new patent, if realized, would allow Facebook to track the emotion of its users and modify message content of messages based on that emotional input. The resulting modifications could range from choosing an appropriate emoticon to adjusting text size.
The patent application lists methods of predicting emotion using relative typing speed, how hard the keys are pressed, movement, location, and various other factors.
Facebook is Big on Emotion
This isn't Facebook's first foray into the world of emotion tracking. The humble "Like" button is a very lightweight emotional indicator and the newer "Reactions" build upon that by gaining more emotional insight from a very light touch action. Facebook's algorithm then uses this data to decide what content is shown in your timeline. This, however, is the tip of the iceberg for Facebook. The social media giant has bigger ideas. Other patents filed by Facebook include using facial recognition to pick up emotional cues. Back in 2014, Facebook applied for a patent that would allow for device cameras to read the emotion of its users to gather real-time article feedback. That feedback would then allow Facebook's algorithm to decide what content to suggest next.
In 2015, Facebook also applied for a patent that would allow webcam technology to suggest an appropriate emoticon for a text message based on emotions detected via the device camera. Using face tracking, the messaging app would choose an emoticon that best matches emotional cues read from the user's face.
Social Media And Emotion
As we mentioned previously, Facebook already uses a degree of emotional feedback to influence content discovery. Recently, Facebook even faced criticism for allegedly using emotional feedback to influence advertising. Naturally, Facebook is in complete denial.
Emotion has played a big part in marketing for many years in the form of sentiment analysis. Although somewhat primitive compared to emotion-tracking technology, sentiment analysis can give some idea of the emotional state of a person by the content of their social media messages.
Face Tracking Leads The Way
All of the above can easily be described as vaporware, in as much as there is nothing solid there. In that precise context, that much is true but if you look at the broader context, emotion tracking is here already. Right now, face tracking is the flagship input for face tracking. Subsequently, it also looks to be the most likely to impact events in the short term.
Real-time Event Feedback
As we've already discussed, the combination of facial and emotional tracking could be an early warning sign for the end of the event feedback form. Admittedly, that's quite a leap and naturally, using cameras to pick up people's emotions raises privacy concerns. For these reasons, perhaps the event feedback form will be here for a while yet.
Or maybe not. The new Facebook patent poses another possible way to get emotional feedback from event attendees in real-time. Instead of quite invasively scanning attendees faces, emotional cues can also be picked up from a wide range of sensors on their mobile devices, including the keyboard, touchscreen, and movement. The privacy trade-off is much more favorable for the attendee and much easier to opt out of, should they wish to do so. Would an attendee allow their face to be attached to what is essentially marketing metadata? One day, maybe. Right now, it seems unlikely. Would an attendee allow you to track their interaction with an event app if it means they don't have to fill out a form? While there is still some potential for concerns over privacy, there is also much more personal control over what data is shared and with whom.
A Lighter Touch
Another way to get event feedback in real-time would be to give the attendee complete control over when, how and with whom they share their feelings by prompting them to share their thoughts and using emotional cues to assist the attendee in conveying an accurate emotional portrayal.
Getting Over Fatigue
Getting feedback at the various event touch points can create a great deal of fatigue for the attendee, filling out forms, answering questionnaires and ticking boxes. It's possible that emotion tracking software which gathers data from a multitude of sensors could simply suggest an emoticon for feedback on a particular session, saving time for the attendee and not to mention all that admin work for event organizers. When presented with the option of filling out a questionnaire or clicking an emoticon, it's possible that the benefits to the overall event experience could outweigh the privacy concerns.
Facial expressions, typing style and a whole host of other factors can be used to indicate the emotional state of technology users and subsequently, through the application of technology, that includes event attendees. Although the technology we see detailed in patents may never see the light of day, they can be a good indicator of the direction in which technology is headed. The next step for events is how best to use this technology to improve the attendee experience.