Havasi is the co-founder and CEO of artificial intelligence startup Luminoso, a four-year-old company that spun out of the MIT Media Lab. Basically, the company uses natural language processing and machine learning technologies to help businesses analyze what consumers are saying across all kinds of communications channels, including news sites, blogs, online forums, and, yes, social media. Previously, the company examined only archived data, but now it can analyze all that chatter in real time.
Today, the company launched a tool called Compass, which helps businesses not only track online discussions as they’re happening, but also instantly respond as need be. If consumers start complaining about a product defect, say, a business can start the damage control without delay. “What Compass does is surface things as they come up,” Havasi says. “It figures out what new issues are emerging and deals with the way language changes dynamically without needing a person in the loop to do moderation.”
A word cloud from Luminosos Dashboard exemplifying how the software can understand Emoji as well as language. Luminoso
This past summer, Luminoso used its Compass technology to provide live analysis of the World Cup on Sony’s One Stadium Live website, and now it’s offering the tool to the rest of the world. Previously, the company’s commercial tools only analyzed archived data—not stuff that’s streaming across social media at this very moment.
Compass works with Twitter out of the box, but it also comes with an API, or application programming interface, that lets you plug it into other online forums. And according to Havasi, it can train itself to search for relevant information. Right now, if businesses want to track a certain topic, an actual person must manually enter keywords they want to look for, while Compass can generate relevant keywords on the fly.
But it doesn’t merely search for keywords. It tries to “understand” what people saying, using natural language processing in tandem with a database of English concepts that grew out of work at MIT. Havasi even says the system can understand emojis. “I think that’s a really important aspect,” she says, “especially as we work more in social.”