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angry computer guyA startup called Affectiva said that it wants to change the way advertisers and researchers judge the effectiveness of an ad. With its upcoming Affdex service, companies should be able to use consumers’ webcams to record their faces as they watch a video. Then the company can measure the response — both the emotions consumers’ felt and how strongly they felt them.

Waltham, Massachusetts-based Affectiva spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. The company has already raised $2 million in funding from its founders and Lingfield AB, and it just won a $650,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Affectiva has one product available now — Q Sensor, a wearable device for measuring emotions. But co-founder Rana el Kaliouby said that the NSF grant will help the company launch Affdex as an online service, which could be used much more broadly. The goal, she said, is to “democratize market research”, making it possible for a small company to quickly and affordably test their content on a large group of consumers. For example, if you wanted to create a promotional video for your company, you could test out an early version on Affdex to see if consumers responded positively.

Without Affdex, this kind of pre-release testing is usually performed in a lab, and the emotional analysis required “painstaking”, frame-by-frame analysis of video footage, el Kaliouby said.

There’s at least one other startup interested in this kind of analysis — Affective Interfaces, which launched in fall 2009. Despite the similar names and concepts, el Kaliouby said the two companies are taking different approaches. Affectiva can measure more complex emotions, like confusion, she said.

You can see can see a simplified demo version of the Affdex technology here. (It won’t work if you’re using Gchat at the same time.)

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