Emerging technologies, from artificially intelligent machine learning to big data analytics, are transforming the way people communicate and interact. Yet, in a world that is heavily influenced by social media, research finds that consumers face increased feelings of isolation, anxiety, and incidents of online bullying. Facebook even has its very own compassion department targeted at incentivizing compassionate and positive online interactions.

How can product developers and technologists alike use emerging tech tools and their insights into consumer behavior to help maximize positive behaviors like connection and compassion amongst users across the globe?

Machine Learning Algorithms

Programmers need to take initiative to develop compassionate machine learning algorithms within AI’s machine learning systems. Consumers, even those usually characterized as kind people, sometimes mirror bad behavior online. Coined by researchers as “troll psychology”, studies show that people who are further apart in distance, even via screen, are less willing to interact fair and nice. While AI’s functions were modeled based on the left brain’s activity, often associated with logic and reasoning, “full AI” (also known as affective computing) can combine cognition, logic, emotion and empathy. However, the modeling of right brain activity in AI technologies is underdeveloped.

Affectiva’s co-founder and Chief Strategy and Science Officer, Rana el Kaliouby, specializes in emotional computing. Her company is an MIT spin-off that produces an emotionally aware technology platform called Affdex. Using a multimodal approach that identifies head poses and facial expressions, the algorithms capture over 50 billion emotional data points. Already, the technology can capture fleeting expressions like a squint. Assessing contextual and cultural information in tandem allows the technology to accurately assess and detect emotions. The AI-based deep learning methodologies implemented in the company’s technology utilize a large data repository to map images and videos of facial expressions and create automated learning patterns.

Catering to consumer needs, AI technologies are allowing us to determine the moods of customers and the way they connect with each other. As a foundation, these technologies can help provide interfaces that create better understanding and community between social users, as they respond to AI-enabled recommendations on user databases. As programmers capitalize on human empathy in machine learning algorithms, AI’s ability to emulate everyday human interactions can assist in the way people associate with technology and online communities. In fact, emotionally-aware app technology seeks to gauge audience responses. Pilots in gaming allow Dr. Rana’s company to analyze game dynamics based on a player’s emotional reactions.The more feedback and data available on consumer emotion and response to online products, the easier it will be for AI to cater to consumers in a personalized way and in turn help them make more compassionate decisions about the way they share, receive and respond to new products and the information and people they see online.

Big Data Initiatives & Internet of Things (IoT) Networks

From big cities to towns across the globe, big data and the Internet of Things can offer a range of connectivity for humans in hyperlocal and regional locations, essentially democratizing the way we access technology and data. According to the Harvard Business Review, product developers can build empathy with their consumers and amongst their consumer base by incorporating design-centric organizations so that employees can analyze behavior and conclude what users need. Organizations need to ensure that data quality is maintained and that statistical correlation analysis is routinely undertaken. In addition, “big empathy” is employed in the way organizations allow users to provide feedback and how they can facilitate more productive and informed mindsets amongst users which could ultimately lead to improved compassion amongst diverse user bases.

Like Affectiva’s Affdex platform, the more user feedback and data that is consolidated via shared cloud platforms through personal devices, the better product developers and technologists can build efficient platforms on which everyone can express their opinions. Ideally, smart cities and governments can use this technology to cater to users’ needs and desires, creating more stable, civil societies.

When technologists and product developers work together to optimize products and technological experiences with empathy, it empowers the consumer to extend a world of empathy all on their own.