A pilot study commissioned by BBC Worldwide has seen the introduction of facial recognition software into 200 test viewers' homes. Of course it's not there to recognise the people who are watching, but to measure their facial expressions, to see how they react to programmes and events within those programmes.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the technology used in the survey participants' homes comes from British startup CrowdEmotion. Apparently the system can detect and measure the following range of viewer emotions; happiness, surprise, anger, fear, disgust and sadness. The BBC has used this system to gauge viewer reaction in shows like Sherlock and Top Gear, among others.
The executive vice president of BBC Worldwide Insight, David Boyle, said that "CrowdEmotion’s ability to capture, record and quantify our audience’s emotional attachment and engagement to our TV shows, places BBC Worldwide at the forefront of global audience research and ultimately determines what our fans love to watch".
The chief executive of CrowdEmotion, Matthew Celuszak, said that his firm's emotion measurement systems are the result of "20 years of neuroscience… boiled down into machine learning," which can be used for tasks such as to "humanise a brand," or even gauge "criminal intent".
I'm interested in what might change following such an emotion measurement survey. If the BBC measures these reactions to its programmes does it then intend to feed that back into the TV show making process?