Measuring tone of voice

18 Feb 2004|Lee Shupp

Saw the following article on Newscan:
Love Detector. An information technology originally developed to combat terrorism is being applied to demystify love, reports Ivan Berger in The New York Times. The technology “is based on layered voice analysis,” and was created “for security work” by an Israeli company called Nemesysco. It “applies 8,000 algorithms to 129 parameters of a speaking voice, assessing among other things, levels of emotion, embarrassment and concentration, as well as whether what is said reflects certainty, uncertainty or outright lies.”

I have doubts that this technology can save heartbreak, but think that it could have some cool applications to qualitative research that Cheskin does. Most qualitative research emphasizes what is said, rather than how it is said. This is problematic, because research that states that interpersonal communication is about 55% body language, 38% tone, and just 7% words themselves. While the percentages can be debated, the net is that most interpersonal communication is thru body language and tone, which are rarely analyzed in depth.

Good moderators know when words don’t jive with tone or body language, and will mention it to clients in person and in reports. But there are no generally accepted metrics to measure tone or body language clearly, and that would be helpful for clients who can’t attend groups or watch video. (Can’t trust transcripts by themselves too much now, can we?)

We had an internal email debate about what voice analyzers would do to poetry. A colleague thought it would kill poetry; I thought that good poetry would be complex and nuanced enough to confuse the best software program.

Don’t you wish you could see my body language now, or get tone with these words?

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