Tel Aviv, Israel-based emotions analysis company Beyond Verbal recently announced $3.3 million in new funding in addition to the launch of its Beyond Wellness API, which enables app developers and wearable device makers to add emotion sensing capabilities to their offerings. The funding was a follow-on to the round of funding Beyond Verbal closed last year, bringing total funding for the company up to more than $7 million. Lead investors included Winnovation and SingulariTeam.
"Understanding emotions has basically three different archetype use cases," Beyond Verbal's VP of Marketing and Strategic Accounts Dan Emodi told MobiHealthNews in an interview. "First one is 'how do I analyze somebody else?' But the fact is, we as humans, are pretty good -- even males, not just females -- at understanding other peoples' emotions. Where we are normally blindsided actually is about ourselves. We have less understanding of what we reflect to the outside world. And, of course, machines are mostly clueless when it comes to emotions. They know what we say, touch, and where we are, but they are basically blindsided by emotion. As a company our true goal is to [give] machines the ability to communicate with humans on an emotional level."
The new API turns any smartphone or mic-equipped wearable device into a proactive, emotional wellbeing sensor that can correlate behavior and activities with different emotional states. Beyond Verbal's platform can sense 400 emotions, according to the company.
Beyond Verbal has two free, consumer-facing apps -- one for iOS and a recently launched one for Android -- called Moodies, which Emodi described as demo applications.
"We made them to make the technology and concepts behind it accessible to everyone," he said. "It is a statement for us, because we are letting the world play with our core technology to illustrate the tech. More than 154 countries have downloaded tens of thousands of copies of Moodies, including great success in Saudi Arabia, a neighbor country to where I live in Israel." In addition to Saudi Arabia and Israel, Emodi said the app has attracted the most downloads in the US, Russia, and Germany.
While the demo apps to use the same core technology as Beyond Verbal's paid products, they offer similar functionality, no tracking or trending, and minimal quality assurance (noise to signal).
"What we are selling is our API," Emodi said. "Our emotion sensor lives in the cloud and it has a lot more capabilities than is reflected in Moodies. The new Beyond Wellness API takes some of Moodies capabilities but adds more dimensions to it. The first one is the ability to track. Moodies is kind of like a slot machine in that it doesn't matter what you did before or after -- each reading is independent from the last. So, correlation -- the ability to correlate your mood with different emotions or feelings. What makes you feel better? What improves your emotional wellbeing? We believe emotions affect not only the soul but also your body."
Emodi said that on the wellness front, the company has a few potential customer groups in mind. First and foremost, it is targeting wearable device makers who may wish to add voice input to their devices, which could then also automatically sense emotion by uploading those vocals to Beyond Verbal's server.
"Another completely different use case is remote care," Emodi said. "You are home talking to your remote caregiver and that person can now not just have an understanding of your emotional wellbeing right now, but they could pull out -- with your permission, of course -- your emotional states from now back until your last [discussion]. That enables your remote caregiver to add a dimension that is sorely lacking today, the emotional wellbeing aspect. It is commonly known today to be a crucial part of even your physical health."
Emodi said that last year's funding was intended to help Beyond Verbal demonstrate its capabilities and its ability to demonstrate results, while the recent follow-on funding will help it to prove Beyond Verbal's business case.
Beyond Verbal's opportunity is a global one, Emodi said, not just because of the interest users from around the world have shown in their consumer-facing app, but because after 19 years of research and close to half a million voices analyzed, Beyond Verbal has found that vocal modulation is universal.
"It's like body language and it comes from the part of the brain that preceded our culture and words," Emodi said. "That's why babies and pets can understand our feelings quite well."
If Beyond Verbal and others working to bring emotion sensing to the market succeed, soon healthcare providers may have a more complete understanding of our emotional states too.