Business

Smurks uses emoticons to gauge the mood of crowds

 

Smurks, an iPhone and iPad app for non-verbal expression by way of malleable emoticons, has quietly become a powerful communication-aid in the autism community. Today, its makers are ready to transform the app into the next great tool for market research.

“Our feelings are the number one driver of the decisions we make,” said chief co-founder Pat Burns at the DEMO Conference in Santa Clara, Calif. “The reason that facial animation works is because each Smurk is a data point… it’s a big 3D graphic mood map! [It's] the quantitative analysis of people’s feelings.”

Smurks, a previously launched mobile application from startup Iconicast, provides people with a way to express their feelings about people, places, events, and things by pinching, stretching, and otherwise distorting an emoticon called a “smurk” in as many 350 different permutations. The smurk, an emotional alternative to a tag or review, has since been embraced by children with autism who otherwise have difficulty expressing emotion.

Iconicast is now ready to harness the intelligence gleaned by gathering smurks with a new market research tool called Iconimetrix, announced today at the DEMO Spring 2012 conference in Santa Clara, Calif. The system anonymizes the emotional tags for quantitative analysis, and identifies the mood and customer sentiment for any given place or thing.

Smurks Iconimetrix is specifically tailored to professionals and consumers — think marketers, pollsters, and comparison shoppers — who want a better way to understand how people feel about things. You can think of it as the emotional alternative to the question-and-answer survey. Already, the new mood measurement system is gaining fans at ad agencies and market research firms, Iconicast said.

“Expressing our emotions non-verbally plays a huge role in human evolution and in our human everyday lives; except new, smart technologies were severing us from this part of our humanity,” Iconicast CEO and cartoonist Pat Byrnes explained to VentureBeat. “We love technology, but we love being human more. Still, we figured, why couldn’t we have both?”

By humanizing technology, Iconicast believes Smurks Inconimetrix has the potential to not only compete with standard polling systems and research technologies from Nielsen, CNN, and Moody’s, but actually provide better insight.

Founded in 2010, Wheaton, Illinois-based Iconicast has raised $300,000 in funding and has three employees.

Iconicast is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Photo credit: wstera/Flickr


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