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Spectrum Labs has created natural language AI that can parse online text for toxic behavior. And now it has figured out how to identify healthy online behavior and reward it.
The Miami company has launched its first-ever Healthy Behavior AI in partnership with Together Labs’ IMVU, one of the world’s largest social game platforms — or, as we call them these days, a metaverse platform. (It turns out they met at our GamesBeat Summit 2022 event in April and began this partnership). It turns out that incentivizing positive play can lead to better return on investment, said Justin Davis, CEO of Spectrum Labs, in an interview with GamesBeat.
With 80% of U.S. online gamers having experienced harassment, this integration amplifies existing content moderation AI, which removes toxic content, by creating the ability to recognize and reward pro-social behaviors by users.
Since implementing Spectrum Labs’ toxic content moderation AI, Together Labs has had directionally positive results when comparing retention in moderated and unmoderated rooms, said Maura Welch, vice president of marketing at Together Labs, in an email to GamesBeat.
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“We have been known as the company that deployed AI for the purposes of detecting the really bad stuff on the platform,” Davis said. “And it takes a lot of R&D investment to detect any given behavior in any given language up to a certain level of acceptable standards so that a customer can not only learn from the data that’s created from that, but really take action against users in a in a scalable manner.”
Davis said that with Spectrum Labs’ help, Together Labs has been able to enjoy a sizable increase in user retention.
“We’ve just done a really good job of deploying our technology in a way that drives user engagement and retention,” Davis said. “As you know, customer acquisition costs have never been higher, the demand for people’s attention has never been higher. And so once you get someone on your platform, you’ve got to do a really good job at making sure that they have a great first time experience on that platform. And if you do a good job with that first time visit per user, they’re typically six times more likely to return.”
That comes back to benefit revenue and it serves to remove toxic users.
“But you don’t build a positive or healthy community just by removing the bad,” Davis said. “We started brainstorming in Los Angeles on how we take that technology and apply it for identifying not the bad behaviors and bad users but to identify the good people.”
Early results show Average Revenue per Paying User (ARPPU) was 12% higher for specific users that were protected from seeing toxic speech, Davis said. Both companies believe that combining toxic content moderation AI with the ability to also recognize positive user behavior will result in better first-time engagement, retention and revenue.
“As the next generation of games become more immersive, more of the game play experience is about the interactions between players, which is where leadership in natural language AI can help shape better user experiences,” said Davis. “Trust and Safety used to just be about removing toxic content and bad actors, but now it’s about shaping player experiences to create resiliency and drive retention. User interactions impact user experience which impacts revenue.”
Spectrum Labs said it uses the most advanced natural language contextual AI to help platforms scale content moderation on gaming platforms by detecting and actioning toxic behaviors and users across text and audio content in any language.
With the new Healthy Behavior AI product, gaming platforms will realize a new approach to retain more first-time users and increase engagement of current players by activating their most helpful players, Davis said.
“This is exciting stuff. I mean this is what everyone wants right now,” said Davis.
Together Labs is among the pilot customers testing and providing input on Healthy Behavior AI. Their portfolio includes metaverse leaders IMVU, WithMe and MetaJuice.
“Our company’s mission is to empower people to connect in the metaverse and we are deeply invested in innovating on social communication,” said Welch. ”Uniquely, we focus on fostering human relationships based on the science of friendship. Our platforms have integrated rewards, levels and incentives that unlock the positivity, social experiences and sharing that people need for authentic connection and fun. By engaging our most friendly and helpful players using Spectrum Labs’ Healthy Behavior AI, we look forward to improving user experiences while increasing retention, engagement and revenue.”
From higher retention and revenue to freedom from toxicity and the design of positivity into gameplay, c-suite decision makers, vice presidents, managers, and end users will all benefit from the activation of Healthy Behavior AI, Spectrum Labs said.
Following the rollout for gaming, the company has plans to extend its Healthy Behavior AI to include a full suite of capabilities for social media and e-learning companies, among others, Davis said.
Spectrum Labs has about 50 people now. Understanding text speech is going to be critical for developers building metaverse applications, Davis said.
Davis said there hasn’t been a lot of research on encouraging good behavior. Most were focused on identifying hate speech, harassment and spam. But Spectrum Labs found a few things in common, such as rapport, or having good conversational back and forth.
There is also communication about teaching and invitations. Those things usually lead to a good experience for players. Players can find mentors and become more engaged in the game or platform. And the third common point is encouragement and cheerleading. It can be as simple as a high five.
“These three healthy behaviors are pretty consistent across any platform,” Davis said. “Now we’re more intentionally looking for the good stuff too so that we can built these brighter, healthier, more resilient communities.”
Davis is convinced there is a connection between encouraging healthy behavior and better financial results.
Davis said the company is focused on text analysis now, but over time it will add voice analysis too. Spectrum Labs screens everything that gets written on a platform. Now the company analyzes all text speech on a platform and figures out how to reward partners.
“You can have a more comprehensive view of good and bad, what happens on the platform,” Davis said.
The Together Labs experience
Welch said Together Labs researched many of the systems available out there and Spectrum Labs stood out as truly understanding the way to go about improving moderation through intelligent chat filtering.
IMVU primarily serves an 18-24 demographic.
“Our goal is to improve moderation and safety without thwarting normal, casual, non-toxic speech,” Welch said. “Spectrum Labs worked proactively with us, running a sample set of our data through their AI filters, which helped us to gain confidence in the tech. Adding IMVU to the growing data set that Spectrum Labs uses to improve and evolve their AI, benefits both of our companies. And above it all, our missions are aligned: both companies are focused on making online environments more successful for human connection.”
Welch said the social fabric and the way people form connections determines success or failure in the metaverse or any online environment. And fundamentally, toxic behavior undermines human connection. The problem the companies are trying to solve is how to create online environments that are good for humans.
But today’s social media is more about passively scrolling content designed for clicks and views, and less about actually being social together. We are all spending more time online and we’ve witnessed the loneliness, polarization, and toxicity that “social” media can bring, Welch said. To reduce toxicity in online environments we need to design for connection, she added.
“We know from the science of friendship that, to form connections, you need to hang out, have fun together, and reveal something about yourself. And the foundation…the must-have…is that it has to be positive,” Welch said. “The science tells us we need five positives to overcome one negative experience. While only a minority of users are toxic, those few can negatively affect many people. Conversely, healthy, welcoming behavior can have a positive impact.”
She added, “It sounds simple…but the way it unfolds is complex. It’s a social science, not a hard science. And that’s where natural language AI can help us identify and mitigate toxic speech and with this latest development, help us to recognize and reward pro-social behaviors.”
I asked how Together Labs is using positive reinforcement.
Welch said that, on IMVU, the engines of positivity are in the community itself and it rewards and encourage them in multiple ways.
“Creators design amazing things and experiences and mentor each other. We provide ways for them to connect with each other and build a following in the community,” Welch said. “We have 25,000 volunteer greeters that create positive first experiences for users and increase retention. We reward successful greeters with badges that deliver status in the community, as well as unique digital items. Hosts are our users that break the ice and keep the environment positive when they open up a Room for people. We provide tools to help them keep the environment positive, such as the power to mute and boot toxic users.”
Together Labs also has WithMe, a new metaverse now in open beta on the App Store, and it uses a Kudos system. Users are able to give Kudos each day to others for being good teammates or for being friendly. Receiving these Kudos builds reputation and status in the community.
“We know from the science of friendship that doing a range of different types of experiences together is important for connection,” Welch said. “On WithMe, our Escape Rooms are designed to accelerate trust as users solve them together. Side-by-side play, such as Trivia games, are known to develop connection. And we provide ice-breakers through watching videos or drawing together.”
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