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Moments of Innovation

Emotion detector gets to heart of electorate

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 02:38

Dec. 11 - Japan is preparing to elect a new government in a general election scheduled for Sunday and, while campaign managers are working hard on behalf of their candidates, there's one trick they have probably missed in finding an advantage. It's called Sentient, an emotion detector developed in Spain which offers politicians a scientific insight into the electorate's feelings. Jim Drury has the story.

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Enrique Lyon oversees two volunteers as they test Sentient - a program he believes could revolutionise political campaigning. The pair are wearing heart monitors fitted to mobile phones. An algorithm assesses changes in their heartbeat patterns as they watch a series of political speeches. SOUNDBITE (English) ENRIQUE LYON, LEADER OF SENTIENT PROJECT AND INTERNATIONAL DIRECTOR AT TECNALIA, SAYING: "When a person is experiencing a positive emotion like happiness or empathy this distance between the heartbeats is kind of more uniform. On the contrary, when someone is experiencing negative emotions like fear or anger then this distance between the heartbeat becomes very erratic." As the volunteers concentrate on a speech, a simple display of their negative or positive feelings appears on Lyon's smartphone screens, transmitted via Bluetooth. SOUNDBITE (English) FORMER U.S PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH ADDRESSING CONGRESS, SAYING: "They stand against us. They're the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century....." Footage of former U.S. President George W. Bush's address to Congress days after 9/11 often evokes strong feelings. PhD student Paula Almiron says she's no fan of Bush. But, anxious for the safety of her mother, a US resident, the program showed her positive feelings surge as he spoke. UPSOT: CHEERING SOUNDBITE (English) PAULA (PRON: PAOLA) ALMIRON, PHD STUDENT, SAYING: "He was talking about the whole country and my mother is part of that, so that's why I was moved." Feelings of fear, happiness, and hilarity can also be registered. UPSOT: WOMAN ON SCREEN SCREAMING Sentient was developed by Spanish technology firm Tecnalia and Lyon says it could have a range of uses in advertising and businesses. But most interest has come from political parties, who've already used the tool in recent Spanish elections. Campaign managers wanted to see voters' responses, not just to specific policies, but to the clothes, mannerisms and voice of candidates. SOUNDBITE (English) ENRIQUE LYON, LEADER OF SENTIENT PROJECT AND INTERNATIONAL DIRECTOR AT TECNALIA, SAYING: "We can actually isolate, for example, just the voice. Is it a kind of voice that is kind of reassuring or is it a voice that actually causes some alert or some kind of fear in people. So we can measure all this different aspects with Sentient and later the response for the campaigns can adjust not only the speeches but they could actually use it to choose one internal candidate of (over) another." With floating voters increasingly important in modern elections, Tecnalia believes Sentient offers campaigners the best way of keeping their finger on the political pulse.

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Emotion detector gets to heart of electorate

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 02:38

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