Apple just bought Emotient, a San Diego-based startup that uses artificial intelligence to identify how people are feeling, The Wall Street Journal reports.
A video on Emotient's Vimeo page shows that it can recognize a person's emotions at any given moment, in real-time, just by analyzing their facial patterns.
In another video, Marian Bartlett, a founder of Emotient and the company's lead scientist, explains how it works.
Here's a clip that shows how the technology can instantaneously recognize the emotions of individuals within a group:
It all sounds a bit out of this world — and indeed, perhaps a bit creepy. But it could certainly come in handy at Apple.
One of Emotient's promo videos explains that this technology can be used for a variety of purposes: advertisers can use it to gauge how people feel about an ad or a new product, media companies can use it to measure audience response to a movie or TV show, and retailers can use it to measure how people feel about a certain "retail experience."
Emotient also says it can be used in healthcare to measure how a patient is feeling.
Apple could use Emotient's tech for all of these things: its iAd platform could benefit from better sentiment analysis, its retail arm could use it to analyze people's shopping experiences at the Apple Store, and the marketing and sales teams could use it to gauge how well a particular advertisement is performing with the public. The ability to analyze emotions could also benefit Apple's other AI products like Siri or its Photos app — perhaps you could ask your iPhone to "show only happy photos" and it could show you only photos with smiling people in them.
In an email, an Apple spokesperson issued its boilerplate response to questions about acquistions: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."
Ken Denman, Emotient's president and CEO, did not immedietly return a request for comment.