IBM researchers have created the IBM Watson Tone Analyzer, a supercomputer application which can read a message and judge the tone conveyed in the message.

This is the kind of task that a human can do naturally, but that takes a lot more intelligence than a computer can usually deliver.

But Rama Akkiraju, distinguished engineer and master inventor at IBM Watson User Technologies, wrote in a blog post, “Can a computer detect the tones conveyed in a message accurately and automatically? Helping humans assess and refine tone in written communication is an interesting challenge in the artificial intelligence and cognitive sciences fields. At IBM Watson, we are beginning to answer this question.”

It sounds like there must be a human behind the curtain here. But back in 2013, we wrote about how IBM researchers were able to decipher your personality in 200 tweets.

At times, the tone may be overlooked, undesired, or not conveyed well by the author, according to Akkiraju.

“IBM Watson Tone Analyzer, now available in experimental mode, is a service to help you assess and refine the tone in textual communication,” he wrote. “This latest addition to our Watson Developer Cloud APIs and SDKs is available on Bluemix.”

The tech is similar to linguistic analyses that power IBM Watson Personality Insights. Tone Analyzer analyses given text and provides insights about the emotional, social and writing tones reflected in that text. Such insights can be used for a number of purposes including personal and business communications, self-branding, market research, public relations management, and automated contact center management, Akkiraju said.

The salient emotional elements of tone include cheerfulness, negative emotions, and anger.

“Cheerfulness refers to positive emotions such as joy, optimism, contentment, inspiration, and happiness. Negative emotions include feelings of fear, disgust, despair, guilt, rejection, and humiliation. Anger is a type of negative feeling with strong intensity such as annoyance, hostility, aggression, hurt, frustration and rage,” Akkiraju said.

IBM Watson can also figure out social tones such as openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

“Openness is the extent to which a person is open to experience a variety of activities; agreeableness is a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative towards others; and conscientiousness is a tendency to act in an organized or thoughtful way. We use these three dimensions to illustrate the openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness of the writer as reflected in the text,” Akkiraju said.

Watson can also deal with writing tone.

“Writing tone provides feedback on how analytical, confident and tentative one’s writing is,” Akkiraju wrote. “Analytical tone shows a person’s reasoning and analytical attitude about things. Confidence tone indicates the degree of certainty exhibited by an individual towards something. Tentative tone shows the attitude of inhibition.”


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