CNN reporter Dana Bash called Tuesday's presidential debate a "shit show," NBC's Andrea Mitchell called it a "disgrace" and ABC's Martha Raddatz called it "mud wrestling in the middle of a pandemic."
But Yves Bergquist, founder of CortoAI, saw it as an opportunity to show how AI-powered software used for Hollywood scripts could reveal a candidate's underlying emotions, not always evident on camera.
"The words we use are indicative of our emotions and perceptions of social dynamics," Bergquist told dot.LA.
Corto's software analyzes texts and gauges the extent to which any one of 59 "emotional tonalites" are present, on a scale of 0-100. Anything above 75 is considered particularly salient, while values below 25 convey a notable absence.
Some of what Corto's debate analysis reveals is unsurprising. It found both candidates used language that was stressed, persuasive and anxious. Neither conveyed much happiness.
But Bergquist was impressed by how Trump's high-scoring traits mirrored a typical Hollywood drama lead. The AI "seems to confirm that Trump is being a president in character," Bergquist said.
Biden, meanwhile, "has a much more real-person personality."
Somewhat surprisingly, Corto found the former VP considerably more assertive and self-assured than Trump, while Trump was more trusting and imaginative.
"I don't want to create the impression that this is perfect science," Bergquist said. "This is really powerful but it's not a perfect tool. It's really important to remind people that what this is, is a good tool that in some ways is more nuanced than the human mind and in some ways is less nuanced."
Since 2016, Corto has worked symbiotically with the USC's Entertainment Technology Center, a think tank founded in 1993 by Star Wars creator George Lucas to support cooperative technological advancement in Hollywood. It is currently used by a variety of studios to greenlight scripts, Bergquist said. Producers use the tool to analyze whether a character's tone is hitting the mark.
The software learned to link words to emotions through a combination of text-based training and guidance from professional psychologists and psychiatrists.
Corto does not pick up on body language or tonal cues — just the words. This, however, can reveal some intriguing, between-the-lines insights.
For example, "when Corto sees aggressive behavior it also sees a lot of melancholy. And that makes sense: a lot of times when people are being aggressive they're in pain," Bergquist said.
Many who watched the debate can probably relate to that pairing.
Below are each of the candidates' ten highest and five lowest emotional tonalities according to Corto, and the five areas with the greatest difference between the two.
Trump's Top Ten
Type A: 91.1
Biden's Top Ten
Money Oriented: 90.56
Trump's Bottom Five
Self Assured: 16.28
Biden's Bottom Five
Emotionally Aware: 25.07
Family Oriented: 38.84 (Biden: 62.48; Trump: 23.64)
Self Assured: 26.1 (Biden: 42.38; Trump: 16.28)
Trusting: 22.47 (Trump: 70.74; Biden 48.27)
Imaginative: 20.36 (Trump: 45.33; Biden 24.97)
Religion Oriented: 19.28 (Biden: 56.49; Trump: 37.21)
Sam Blake primarily covers entertainment for dot.LA. Find him on Twitter @hisamblake and email him at samblake@dot.LA
How would you like to see the news articles that people in your line of work find relevant? Newsology, a news aggregator app based in L.A., is betting that its new spin on news feeds curated around people's professions will intrigue enough users to help it compete with the Silicon Valley giants.
Founder Mark Hasan tells dot.LA that what distinguishes Newsology's AI recommendation engine from competitors like Apple News, Google News, Flipboard and News 360 is that it incorporates the "extra dimension" of a user's industry, title and location. Hasan, who has a background in mechanical engineering and machine learning, says his patent for grouping multiple descriptors about a user gives his app an edge.
- L.A. Tech Companies Are Still Hiring, Despite the Crisis - dot.LA ›
- Newsology News App Focuses on Readers' Jobs and Locations ... ›
Elementary Robotics, one of Los Angeles' top robotics startups, announced Tuesday it has raised $12.7 million in Series A funding to continue developing and deploying its automation products at scale.
Co-founded in 2017 by Bill Gross of Idealab and Arye Barnehama, a Pomona College dropout and former head of design at Daqri, the company says its mission is to assist people by "automating day-to-day repetitive tasks" but it adds cryptically on its website: "We can't detail too much about the technology because we're still in stealth mode."