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Can computers recognise human emotions?

Our MeetMe video interviewing platform has been helping employers to get to know candidates from the start of the application process. And now, by analysing sentiment expressed in these videos using Microsoft Media and Cognitive Services, we can provide further insight into job applicants.

Microsoft’s Media Analytics tool recognises facial expressions relating to different emotions. From neutral through to happiness, surprise, sadness, anger, disgust, fear and contempt, it’s able to give an indication of emotion throughout a video. These particular emotions are understood to be cross-culturally and universally communicated with particular facial expressions.

At Cognisess, we’re making use of the very latest in machine learning and data analysis techniques. So we’re pleased to be incorporating the data gained from using Microsoft Media and Cognitive Services on our video interviews.

James Pain, a Creative Computing student at Bath Spa University, has converted this data into colourful visuals that clearly show the sentiment expressed at different points in time.

We asked Cognisess Research Associate Kayleigh to share her MeetMe video with us so we could analyse the sentiments expressed throughout. Here’s the result:

And, just for fun, we thought we’d take a look at some well known political figures to see which emotions they express while speaking. Here Obama and Trump are speaking in very different tones on very different topics – so we’re definitely not comparing like for like. But it’s interesting to see the subtleties in human communication and note how the software categorises emotions.

Take a look at this analysis of cool, collected Obama during his last press conference as President of the United States:

And here’s a much more emotionally charged speech from Trump expressing anger about journalists at the White House:

While moderate levels of surprise and anger are present throughout Trump’s speech, Obama remains very neutral, punctuated by a few strong peaks of happiness and sadness. Here Obama is controlling his emotions, while Trump is fully expressing his. It could be argued that Obama is a more nuanced emotional communicator who “switches on” emotions to emphasise a point, whereas Trump’s underlying emotions are always engaged.

We’ll be making much more use of this technology to gather data from video interviews. Already we’ve been able to predict the perceived positivity of candidates through analysing video content, and this could be highly valuable in selecting individuals for customer-facing roles.

For more information on Cognisess Deep Learn – the machine learning engine behind everything we do, and to find out more about how Cognisess could help your business, get in touch at

Bath-based Cognisess selected to attend Microsoft Global Startup Roadshow 2017

Microsoft CEO Satya NadellaCognisess was selected among the UK startups chosen to attend the Microsoft Global Startup Roadshow in Seattle from 24th – 28th April. The five day event brings together 15 startups from across the world to meet Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and take part in learning sessions and networking.

All of the startups taking part have engaged with Microsoft – most having been through the Microsoft Accelerator – and all have ambitions to penetrate the US market. Microsoft will organise strategic meetings with potential enterprise customers, along with sessions with Silicon Valley investors.

From roundtable discussions with senior leaders at Microsoft, through to focussed sessions on strategic business development, enterprise readiness, and media and sales training, the Startup Roadshow is a chance for startup founders to connect and share their stories and learnings.

Deep LearnCognisess joined the Microsoft Accelerator to support the growth of its world leading predictive people analytics platform. Since then the company has gone on to appoint a new Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Boris Altemeyer, and to further develop its Deep Learn™ machine learning engine. Cognisess Deep Learn™ is an innovative and dynamic predictive analytics tool – able to learn, absorb and react to multiple information streams. It turns millions of data points and inputs into clear insights to support HR decision making in organisations. Initial clients have included international hotel group IHG and car manufacturer VW.

Chris Butt CognisessChris Butt, CEO of Cognisess, said: “It’s a great opportunity for Cognisess to be part of the Microsoft Global Roadshow. To be just one of 15 companies from around the world to be invited to meet Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, and the rest of the senior team in Seattle, is an exciting moment for the company. We are in a growth phase and meeting investors, potential customers and the wider Microsoft eco-system will help us scale rapidly.

“It’s also recognition that we are building an innovative and transformative tool. Deep Learn™ – our AI predictive people analytics engine – is changing how we measure talent, potential and performance – helping companies and their people make better decisions.”
High growth startups from China, India, Israel, Belgium, the UK, New York and Seattle will attend the Startup Roadshow, the second of its kind after the successful inaugural event last year. In 2016, 15 startups were selected from a list of over 500, demonstrating the prestige of the Roadshow.

The Microsoft Startup Roadshow Teaser video can be seen below or watched on Facebook.

To find out more about our predictive people analytics platform, unique Deep Learn™ engine, and work with Microsoft, contact us at For media interviews, contact CEO Chris Butt at, and visit our Press Page for photos.

What can racing driver brain waves tell us?

Young racing driverAs part of our collaboration with Arden and the Young Racing Driver Academy, we’ve been analysing the brain waves of young elite drivers. We’ve already gathered some fascinating insights.

In the moving graph below we can see the four different brain waves – alpha, beta, gamma and delta – mapped along with speed and turn pressure. The graph shows us brain activity (y axis) over time (x axis), with speed and turn pressure overlaid.

The trace below is from a driver racing on a new track for the first time. Watch to see how the brain waves change over time as speed and turn pressure rise and fall as the driver goes around the track.

So what does this all mean?

Before you check out the video, here’s the neuroscience behind it:

  • Green = Delta brain waves

Delta waves show the underlying, unconscious activity of the brain. They are prominent while sleeping and meditating, and their activity is often triggered by feelings of compassion and strong emotion.

  • Blue = Alpha brain waves

Alpha waves demonstrate concentration for everyday tasks. They show heightened attention.

  • Orange = Beta brain waves

Beta waves show focussed attention on a particular task. They’re specific to focussing on one action, rather than paying attention to many tasks.

  • Yellow = Gamma brain waves

Gamma waves are linked to multitasking. They show different parts of the brain are working together, with activity switching quickly between different areas.

  • White = Speed

In this context, speed represents how fast the driver is going around the race track.

  • Grey = Turn pressure

Turn pressure is the pressure from the steering dampener. The higher the pressure, the harder the turn on the track.

Can you spot the patterns?

The activity of all brain waves often dips shortly before a gradual increase in speed. This would be explained by a brief period of rest following increased brain activity for a turn in the track. Watch the different brain wave patterns and see what predictions you can come up with.

These subtle patterns are just the beginning of our research. With increasing amounts of data, our Deep Learn™ machine learning engine will soon be able to make connections that allow us to predict driver behaviour and potential. For more information on our research with Arden, read Brain telemetry: Predicting the performance of elite drivers. And find out about the official launch of the study here: Cognisess at the Wearable Technology Show 2017.

Cognisess at the IHG Europe Owners Conference

Chris Butt IHG BerlinThis week Cognisess CEO Chris Butt and Chief Scientific Officer Dr Boris Altemeyer attended the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) Europe Owners Conference in Berlin. The event brought together franchise managers from all over Europe to share their ideas and successes.

The conference focussed on the future of hospitality and technologies transforming the way IHG works, with opportunities for IHG managers to share ideas and immerse themselves in the latest brand innovations. With interactive sessions, showcases, immersive experiences and networking opportunities, the conference brought together IHG’s diverse community of Owners, General Managers and Colleagues from across Europe.

Identifying “what good looks like” for IHG

Cognisess has been working with IHG since 2015, identifying “what good looks like” for General Managers, protecting core hotel and brand values while improving staff retention. Cognisess has also been involved with IHG’s Future Leaders Programme, helping to identify and develop future leaders in the industry. Analysing millions of data points, Cognisess is able to predict the future potential of candidates and employees, generating benchmarks for new General Managers.

During the conference Cognisess presented a number of “pen portraits” outlining the shared attributes of General Managers belonging to the different IHG brands. There was also live polling to guess the emotions represented by a number of facial expressions put up on screen.

IHG General Manager portraits

Chris Butt, CEO of Cognisess, said: “The Berlin Conference has been a great opportunity for us to widen and deepen our relationship with all the IHG brands. As part of the company’s 2020 People Vision, Cognisess’ platform is being used to understand, analyse and match candidates and employees to the right roles and importantly to the right brand. Using Deep Learn™, we’ve already found significant differences and predictive attributes across the hotel brands.

“It’s been notable in speaking to GMs and Hotel Owners just how significant the hotel leadership positions are in setting the tone and context for the guest experience. Many of the Hotels are complex operations and the balance of the team is crucial. The analysis we’re doing across both workforce data and people analytics will highlight the significant attributes of the best performers and those who have the potential to succeed.”

IHG’s vision for meaningful insights

In their Europe HR Operations 2020 Vision & People Strategy, IHG said: “Adding value and meaningful contribution to the business through insights will remain at the forefront of our approach.

“Cognisess Pro is the only application that identifies the talent and potential of a candidate across multiple performance areas – working with the Cognisess team we are creating personalised assessments and benchmarks to suit the culture of the brand to ensure more accurate candidate screening for both frontline and general manager roles. Measuring cognitive, emotional, wellbeing and personality provides the most comprehensive assessment of a person’s neuro-wellbeing.”

Paul Spencer, Head of Operations Europe for Hotel Indigo, part of IHG, said: “Cognisess has enabled us to better understand the profile of our senior managers across our business. Using its assessments and people analytics, we’ve been able to accurately identify the key attributes of high performers and apply the benchmarks to recruit more effectively – saving us time and ensuring best fit candidates across our brands.”

IHG Berlin collage

The IHG Owners Association aims to improve revenue for the hotels, further strengthen the value of IHG’s brands and enhance the experience for guests. The Association represents the interests of owners and operators of more than 3,400 InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) hotels worldwide in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Canada, Mexico and Latin America.

For more information about Cognisess, and to find out how we can help to improve candidate recruitment, employee productivity and organisational design in your business, get in touch with us at

Cognisess at the Wearable Technology Show 2017

This month Cognisess attended the Wearable Technology Show in London to showcase its EEG racing helmet that’s taking predictive people analytics onto the racing track.

Ayrton WTS2017Young elite driver Ayrton Simmons attended to demo the world first technology, alongside Cognisess CEO Chris Butt, Chief Scientific Officer Dr Boris Altemeyer and Research Associate Gerry Taulo. Boris took to the stage to talk about the ground breaking research, sharing insights on machine learning and predictive people analytics in elite sport with an engaged crowd.

A high profile event

The Wearable Technology Show is the largest event for wearables, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), the Internet of Things and connected technology. With over 200 speakers and 75 hours of talks and panel discussions, Cognisess was among those at the forefront of wearable technology.

Chris Butt, Cognisess CEO, said: “WTS 2017 was a great success for Cognisess. We had considerable interest in the launch of the world’s first racing helmet/EEG combination. Ayrton Simmons, part of the Young Racing Driver Academy and tipped to be a future F1 driver, joined us throughout and demonstrated the power of the brain telemetry. We look forward to rolling this technology out more widely.”

Ayrton Simmons

World first innovation and collaboration

Ayrton Simmons, young driver with the Young Racing Driver Academy, said: “The show was really interesting, amazing to see how the technology is evolving! It was also a good media training occasion for me, with various filming and interviews for different channels.

“I think Cognisess’ work is very valuable – anything that could help improve racing drivers’ performance is definitely worth being taken seriously. I feel privileged to be part of the development and the first one in the world to try it.”

Dr Boris Altemeyer, Chief Scientific Officer at Cognisess, said: “The event, both as a show and the panel stream, exceeded our already high expectations. It is great to see that the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit in this sector is stronger than ever, generating a lot of interest in our projects and solutions.

“We made great contacts who share the scientific and open minded approach that we base our work on, and are very much looking forward to exploring new collaborations in the coming weeks. The panel was great, and João, who facilitated it, was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed the session and hope it was useful to the people attending it.”

Ayrton Simmons 2

Taking brain telemetry to the masses

The EEG racing helmet allows live streaming of a driver’s brain waves to the pit crew. This real time information on driver state of mind and level of concentration is highly important, affecting performance on the track. Combined with Cognisess Deep Learn™, patterns of processing not in line with the driver’s best performance on the track can be spotted, predicting – and alerting drivers to – potential cognitive pitfalls.

Take a look at our WTS 2017 gallery for more photos from the two-day event, and read more about the launch of our cutting edge research with the Young Racing Driver Academy, Brain telemetry: Predicting performance of elite drivers.

For more information on Cognisess Deep Learn™ and our work in elite sport, contact


New Cognisess partner: TheTalentFinders

Cognisess continues to partner with those pushing the boundaries of recruitment science. TheTalentFinders uses the Cognisess Deep Learn™ engine to provide its customers with “the best technology available”.

TheTalentFinders, based in London, pride themselves on being at the forefront of their profession, leading the way in developing and shaping the talent industry and having their fingers on the pulse of whatever’s likely to happen in the future. The founders have over fifteen years of experience in recruitment, talent management, development, assessment, employer brand, retention and succession planning.

Alan Walker, Co-founder of TheTalentFinders, said: “Partnering with Cognisess – as part of our TalentMap service – allows us to bring to our customers the best technology available – and enables our customers to make better talent acquisition decisions & improve employee development.”

TheTalentFinders TalentMap service uses gamification to access employees and candidates, measuring individuals against benchmarks and using advanced analytics to predict potential and future performance. At the forefront of this technology, Cognisess is the perfect partner.

For more information on partnering with Cognisess and taking advantage of the very latest in machine learning technology and predictive people analytics, contact us at

The future of wearable technology

With the launch of our ground-breaking research with the Young Racing Driver Academy at Arden using Muse EEG headset technology, we are at the forefront of wearable tech. Dr Boris Altemeyer, Chief Scientific Officer at Cognisess, will be heading to the Wearable Technology Show in London next week to share our world first study. Here he shares his thoughts on attending the Show.

Over the past 12 months wearable technology has become more available than ever before. There are plenty of systems available that are designed to monitor performance and entertain, but the crucial aspect is to show the world how wearable technology can make a true difference to how things are done and unleash potential.

We work with high performance teams and facilitate high performance in many different areas, including sport, industry, and research. We want to speak with anyone interested in applying the technology available in real life, and make available to larger groups what we are pioneering in elite settings.

We believe that wearable technology will undergo a similar development as we have seen with mobile technology in terms of its availability, use and ease of integration.

Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU collaboration across the globe might become a bit more difficult, but it will be more important than ever. Whilst we are very proud to work closely with some of Britain’s most talented people in their respective areas of expertise and performance, we firmly believe in making products that facilitate high performance attainable for a wide audience available all over the globe. This is why we are expanding our network and are working closely with our research and product partners in Canada, the US, as well as of course Europe and Asia.

Having worked in the wearable technology sector from an academic and research perspective, I am very excited to present our developments to the community and get feedback on our projects.

For more information on Cognisess’ work with young drivers, or to arrange to speak to Boris at the Wearable Technology Show in London next week, email us at

Cognisess on digital transformation in the workplace

Zack Weisfeld, MD of the Microsoft Accelerator, is attending the Mobile World Congress this month to join a panel on the topic of “digital transformation in the workplace”. He will be talking about a select number of Microsoft Accelerator start-ups, including Cognisess. Here we share our thoughts on the topic.

–          Are businesses ahead or behind in understanding employee requirements and embracing digital technology?

In our market exploration we’ve found that, in general, businesses are both aware of the new technologies and of the needs of employees. The bottleneck we experience is the gap between knowledge of the needs and issues, and understanding the extent of the impact of the solutions. This makes decision makers hesitant to invest in technology that could be a turning point for a business and make a huge difference to employee satisfaction and wellbeing.

To address this need for knowledge, Cognisess has introduced a Feedback Loop into the Deep Learn™ machine learning platform. This allows continuous tracking of the impact of the recruitment strategy and employee engagement activities delivered through the system. Linking this with 360 Feedback capability, the impact of the technology on the needs of the employees is finally accessible.


–          Has the rise of productivity and collaboration tools used by employees over the past few years actually made us more productive?

From what we have seen in terms of technology use in the past few years, the introduction of new services has certainly made a difference to the overall productivity of organisations and people within them. However, the limiting factor here is the initial level of ‘job-fit’ that has been achieved.

A person who would generally be more suited to a different job role, would be much more productive in the role with higher job-fit. Cognisess uses machine learning and advanced job profile matching based on cognitive performance assessments and social cohesion measures to maximise job-fit. This leads to higher performance with higher perceived motivation by the employees, and reduced churn.


–          What is the future of assistive technology such as machine learning in the workplace and how will employees embrace the technology?

Assistive technology such as machine learning will change the workplace dramatically in the next few years, and has already begun doing so. Cognisess already uses machine learning to create ‘best-match’ job profilers using millions of data points, including language use and text analysis. This helps athletes enhance their performance by understanding how their brain operates best.

For employees, embracing machine learning provides valuable insights. Having this information available will be a significant improvement to job satisfaction in many areas of work, as guesswork can be taken out of the equation when making decisions. Given the powerful Azure platform and live data feeds to ML, waiting for quarterly reports can be eliminated, as real time data allows for the best decision making background – at any point in time.


–          What do you see as the biggest market trends in 2017 and 2018?  

According to Bersin, some of the big upcoming market trends include performance management and real-time engagement evaluation. Cognisess has regular feedback built in to the system, alongside online assessments, all accessible by mobile.

There are increasing numbers of tools such as jobs boards, candidate assessments, video interviews and application tracking systems all designed to streamline the process of hiring. And there has also been growth in the area of wellness and fitness monitoring, which Cognisess also includes in its offering.

The field of people analytics has exploded, increasing diversity in the workplace and allowing predictions to be made on which people will perform best in certain roles. In this area, machine learning and automation are the big trends. Cognisess Deep Learn™ machine learning engine enables complex data to be combined and used to predict future success.


–          What does the industry need to do better to help companies?

Cognisess offers an all in one solution to significantly reduce the cost and time taken to get recruitment technology into effect within businesses.

In a recent article from ERE Media, Unilever described their use of a multi-platform process. The first step is an application and LinkedIn sync, the second a Pymetrics assessment, the third a HireVue video interview, before a full day even at Unilever. This all makes up a two-week process.

In contrast, Cognisess provides the ability to complete an application that includes comprehensive assessments, written information and a video interview all in one, reducing time and cost.


–          How do you see the employee experience evolving and what technologies will they be drawn to in the future?

Cognisess’ all in one approach not only benefits employers, but candidates too. Accessing one simple and intuitive platform where they can follow through clear steps to fill in their details, complete assessments, and record video interview responses.

And once employed, these individuals can go on to receive 360 feedback from their colleagues, monitor their own health and wellbeing, and continually monitor their skills and improve their self awareness and personal development.


For more information on the Cognisess platform and the Cognisess Deep Learn™ machine learning engine, contact us at