This week I’m attending STC Summit 2017, the annual conference of the Society for Technical Communication. These are my notes from one of the sessions at the conference. All credit goes to the presenter, and any mistakes are mine.
Allie Proff‘s session had the intriguing title of “My Android Dreams of Electric Cats: Are You Capturing Your User’s Emotive Analytics?”
Allie took us through a fast-paced view of analytics and emotions. She started by looking at traditional analytics: bounce rate, time on page, number of views, etc). But this measures the “what”, and not the “why”. The “why” is emotions: how the readers are feeling when they come to the docs.
She talked about emotions, why they’re important, and the science of emotions. She told the story of Phineas Gage, who had a staking pole punched all the way through his brain, and lived to tell the tale. Later studies have shown that when you damage the areas of the brain that connect your emotions to your logic, you can’t make decisions. You can list pros and cons, but not make the decision.
We actually use the emotional part of our brain to make a decision, then use our logic to justify that decision. Emotions engage more of your brain than logic: 7 areas as opposed to 2.
Significance for technical documentation: Story telling engages emotions, which makes it very powerful. User experience focuses on delight. Gamification is a specific example of engaging emotions.
Also called emolytics, or emotional analytics: The ability to measure emotions of your reader, for example through their face, voice, wearables, bio-feedback, or text. For example, Facebook infers emotion from people’s updates.
Affective software is software that can analyse a user’s emotions and provide appropriate responses. As a simple example, you might display radio buttons asking how the user is feeling, then provide textual help based on the answers. Allie gave the example of cheery text delivered when the user is filling in a tax return, if the user says they have children.
A more complex example is voice to text software, which can analyse your words and meaning as it processes the input. Beyond Verbal does voice analytics. Their main focus is health care. You talk into the app, and it tells you how you are feeling, based on your tone, with a view to telling whether someone is well or sick.
Also face detection software, which discovers a face in an image. CV Dazzle is a website where you can find out how to trick face detection software. For example, cover up the bridge of your nose between your eyes, and add asymmetrical patterns. Sunglasses dont work. Affectiva provides software (Affdex) that can quantify emotion, such as joy, surprise, anger, based on your face as you watch a video. There are SDKs available for developers to use. A cat scored 99% disdain.
There are a number of companies providing affective software. Allie’s presentation deck lists a number of them.
Allie also showed us some companies producing robots that show or teach emotions to some extent.
Thanks for a fun and informative session, Allie!