artificial empathy for better business

Figuring out a way to teach a computer empathy is quickly becoming a business in itself.

Empathy is a tricky business. To ever fully understand how someone else is feeling is difficult. Empathy is considered, however, a quality which makes us human. As machine learning becomes more popular, empathy is one complex human factor that will be focused on.

Known as artificial empathy, the idea here is to train machines to recognize social signals from humans, aka ‘visual data,’ and then produce an appropriate response. Social signal processing, as a branch of computer science and robotics, is a relatively new phenomenon. It has, however, attracted a significant amount of attention from marketing.

Marketing is highly interested in the way humans communicate.


Harnessing artificial empathy is seen as a marketing goldmine. Sasha Lu, a lecturer at the Cambridge Judge Business School, is combining machine-based image and video analysis with current marketing techniques. This allows for stremlined product sales. The idea is essentially to teach a machine to read a customer’s behavioral cues in reaction to a particular product and then make targeted product recommendations based on these social signals.

Lu is teaching a machine to give a recommendation to a consumer.

The program is based on techniques from human salespeople. Salespeople observe two key sources of information. The first is whether the customer likes it or not, which is inferred by an emotional response from facial expressions. The second is which particular part of the garment is liked or disliked, which is observed through behavioral response. Lu’s project proposes placing a camera on top of a mirror outside of a retailer’s changing space, which would allow computers to capture the customer’s evaluation of the piece of clothing. The customer’s facial expressions and other behavioral responses would then be analyzed in conjunction with data from other customers reacting to the same clothing item in order to make other clothing recommendations to the customer in real time. Other pieces of data culled from the customer, such as height and weight, would allow the computer to make ever more customized suggestions.

The goal is to match the clothes with the customer.

Not only could this information be used in the store but the possibilities for the data to be utilized in ad campaigns is endless. Promotions in the store and out have new information to design ads for the particular target audiences.

This artificial empathy technology along with human sales techniques will help businesses’ bottom lines.

Better technology for better business.

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