Is Empathy The Future Of Technology?

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There has been much discussion on how information technology (IT) professionals need to incorporate the human interaction skill of empathy to stay relevant and employable in the age of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

But an interesting twist and possible employment niche for forward-thinking IT professionals is: how can we test and measure empathy, and then use this knowledge to better serve our customers and each other. Is technology able to teach us how to be more empathic?

Our tests and measurements need to change

Customer-focused companies are interested and have been collecting customer feedback for years. Companies often also implement customer service solutions such as help desk software by Salesforce to maintain healthy communications with their customer base. They conduct Net Promoter Scores (NPS), Smileback surveys, and all kinds of voice, email, and in-person survey collection. And while this information is consistent in quality of data collection, and provides quantifiable transactional and functional customer experience information, surveys do not help us understand customer emotion.

A survey can’t accurately measure common customer emotions, such as frustration, excitement, anger, joy, or surprise. This is a critical missing data set for marketers that are creating emotional-based customer acquisition campaigns, or User Interface Designers (UX) that are developing a new SaaS app.

Can you use technology to measure human emotion?

With the rapid development of sensor technology and virtual reality (VR) machine vision, we can now measure biosignals related to human emotions in real time, in real environments. Take customer experience: we don’t need to ask about what a service felt like, we can see it for ourselves. A research team at the University of Helsinki partnered with Reaktor, a fellow Finland company to conduct preliminary biosignal testing and measurements to see if they could reveal new aspects of or amplify the emotional experience of gameplay in VR.

How did they measure emotional experience?

ECG (electrocardiogram). Heart rate and heart rate variability are related to arousal which is high during for instance excitement or fear, and low during boredom.

EEG (electroencephalogram). Even though you can’t measure basic emotions from the brain’s electrical activity, you can measure activity related to concentration, relaxation, an experience of flow or cognitive strain.

Respiration. Breathing patterns are related to arousal.

Skin conductance. When you sweat, the conductivity of the skin increases. This signal is quite fast and reflects quick changes in arousal, such as caused by startles, increased stress, or increased excitement.

“This short test is just one example of what emotion measurement might entail and of the contexts in which data on emotions might be interesting. The technology that will mostly be used in our research project is machine vision which, of course, requires no electrodes.” stated Katri Saarikivi from Reaktor.

Will human emotion play a role in your next IT job?

There are exciting career opportunities in information technology that include artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, virtual reality (VR) and the emergence of emotional technology. Are you ready to learn more? Contact us ASK Staffing Today!

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