Our success stories vol. 1: The birth of ELLEN
Could a computer be capable of reading human emotions from human face? Thanks to unique technology developed by researchers from Quantum Lab – one of Black Pearls portfolio companies – the answer is yes. One of the tech’s application is ELLEN – a tool that may be used by marketing and advertising agencies in studying the customer emotional reactions to content they create.
Before Quantum Lab reached this level of technological advancement, it had to face all the challenges that most of startupers know too well. “It was one of those garage-like type of undertakings. We wanted to do something cool. I wanted to combine psychology with technology,” Bartosz Rychlicki, CEO at Quantum Lab recalls. We had the concept, we had the team. But to get the business going, we had to find money, to buy at least basic equipment. This is where Black Pearls VC came to the equation, providing financial support to Quantum Lab at the initial stage. We started off with a sum that was enough to sustain a comfortable working environment for two months, to buy equipment and launch the business ” Rychlicki says. “We also took a huge risk and quit our jobs to focus on the project.”.
Since the project turned out to be a promising one, the Black Pearls VC innovation hunters invested another, more considerable batch in Quantum Lab.
The idea to create a tool that could identify human emotions was so innovative that it required not only money, but also time. “We were naive to think it would take us a month. As it later occurred, it actually was a year. There were many tests and many mistakes – the idea may have been cool but the design process should start with finding the problem,” Rychlicki admits.
Although the Xpress Engine technology was a breakthrough, it still needed to be forged into a practical tool to address specified needs of clients. Such tool finally came about, taking the form of ELLEN. The platform tests an individual’s emotional engagement with an advertisement. This is a dream come true for any marketer or advertiser.
The product’s innovative value also lied in the combination of IT with psychology. The programmer’s team task was to teach the application to read mimic expressions, but it was the social psychology expert who analysed the result in useful way. The specific scientific approach was necessary, but also was depending on the current requirements of the project. When working with ELLEN, the important thing was to have the right methodological input: to check what can be drawn from the data, what it actually means and how reliable it is. The presence of psychologists also boosted our trustworthiness as scientists in talks with the clients,” Rychlicki explains.
At present, Quantum Lab is working on a global application for the Xpress Engine. The perspectives are broad and may include the use of this tool in retail to identify customer emotions. As a result, we should know if the customer is willing to come back to a store and buy again. Consequently, sales figures go up and customer care quality takes a step up.
The system developed by Quantum Lab also has the potential to support security effort made at public events or in air traffic context.