Can an App Capture Emotion at Meetings?

Technology that analyzes the emotions expressed by the human voice could give meeting planners a new way to measure results.

“It’s not what you said,” your mother may have scolded you at some point. “It’s how you said it.” Mom had a point: Our tone of voice can be a much more reliable indicator of what we really feel than our words.

That fact has been the driving force behind nearly 20 years of research — based on 300,000 test subjects, speaking in more than 30 different languages — by the Tel Aviv–based company Beyond Verbal, which uses voice analysis to understand emotional states.

The company has patented what it calls “emotional analytics” technology, which analyzes the range of human emotions in speech in real time. Beyond Verbal has released a free iOS app called Moodies, which identifies more than 400 different composite mood variants and groups them into 11 mood categories, such as “disliking,” “happiness,” or “anger.” The app records and archives data about which emotions were detected in recorded speech, but does not archive conversations.

Earlier this year, Beyond Verbal measured the collective mood at the Insight Innovations Exchange (IIeX), a market-research conference held in June in Atlanta, by interviewing attendees. The most common implicit emotions at the event, as reported on the GreenBook market-research blog, were “enthusiastic” and “creative.” On the first day of the conference, “angry” peaked just before lunch. On the second day, “embracive” emotions — defined as friendly, happy, creative, and enthusiastic — were highest at lunch, when nearly 80 percent of participants exhibited them.

On Sept. 11, Beyond Verbal was used to measure the collective emotions of attendees at TEDMEDLive 2014 in Jerusalem. The results took myriad factors into account and were compared with emotional statuses in countries all around the world, according to Beyond Verbal CEO Yuval Mor. At the Jerusalem meeting, there also was a spike in anger right before lunch was served. “Temper and anger are easiest to detect accurately,” Mor said. “We might come across [as] more irritable when hungry or hot.” And “if a speaker was jetlagged and speaking right before lunch,” he added, “he or she might come across with ‘hostility’ in the readout, which might be simply fatigue.”

The best use of the technology for the meetings industry, Mor said, is “mostly self-diagnosis. Your members could use the technology to practice enhancing qualities such as leadership in their voices.”

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.