Apple buys Emotient, maker of artificial-intelligence tech that reads emotion by analyzing facial expressions

“Apple Inc. has purchased Emotient Inc., a startup that uses artificial-intelligence technology to read people’s emotions by analyzing facial expressions,” Rolfe Winkler, Daisuke Wakabayashi, and Elizabeth Dwoskin report for The Wall Street Journal.

“It isn’t clear what Apple plans to do with Emotient’s technology, which was primarily sold to advertisers to help assess viewer reactions to their ads,” Winkler, Wakabayashi, and Dwoskin report. “Doctors also have tested it to interpret signs of pain among patients unable to express themselves, and a retailer used it to monitor shoppers’ facial expressions in store aisles, the company had said… Apple has expressed interest in the field. In a 2014 patent application, it described a software system that would analyze and identify people’s moods based on a variety of clues, including facial expression.”

“Its technology leaves some skittish, including Paul Ekman, a psychologist who pioneered the study of reading faces to determine emotions and is an adviser to Emotient,” Winkler, Wakabayashi, and Dwoskin report. “In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last January, Dr. Ekman said he was torn between the potential power of software that can read emotions and the need to ensure that it doesn’t infringe on personal privacy. He said the technology could reveal people’s emotions without their consent, and their feelings could be misinterpreted.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Dr. Paul Ekman? Are you guys sure we’re not talking about Dr. Peter Venkman?

Seriously, last January, in the referenced report in The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Ekman, the then 80-year-old psychologist, said Emotion’s software is highly accurate, but the accuracy of the system hasn’t been independently tested and he hoped that the government would step in and write rules to protect people. He said that in public spaces, such as shopping malls, consumers should at least be informed if their emotions are captured. Dr. Ekman said he believes that, on balance, his tools have done more good than harm. But the new technology’s ability to instantaneously scan the emotions of crowds of people would be much easier to abuse. “People don’t even know that that’s possible,” he added.

More about Dr. Ekman, a pioneer in the study of emotions and their relation to facial expressions, who has gained the reputation as “the best human lie detector in the world” via Wikipedia here.

Now, we know Apple holds users’ privacy dear, but for an idea of what some other companies might do with this technology, enjoy this little video:


    1. I personally choose to use a cheap Groucho Marx mask.

      The subject of computers reading faces, for various reasons including surveillance marketing, became a mainstream subject in 2015. I seriously believe we’ll end up having to wear something over our heads to remain anonymous out-in-the-wild. That’s NOT a good thing. – – Then of course the marketing morons will want to RFID chip us all. 666 and all that…

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.