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Tweeting your mood – in glorious technicolour

If you think tweeting your live response to a conference presentation and seeing it appear on screen is just so… 2013, then the emotion visualisation software developed for the recent TEDxWellington conference may be just the thing.

Delegates at the one-day conference could tweet what they were feeling about a particular speaker or idea and their emotive words were translated into colours and displayed on a big screen outside the main discussion room. At the same time the tweet made a sound based on the Resenes ‘sound of colour’ palette.

So “#chuffed” turned the screen gold and sounded like a ukulele strum, for example. 

Socialcolour didn’t give visitors the option of a full spectrum of colours. Grey (“bored”) appears not to have been one of the tweet-able emotions, for example, nor pink (“captivated by that gorgeous girl in the second row”).

Optimation PR consultant Paul Blomfield, who came up with the original concept, says the team started with a palette of five colours/sounds – all of them positive.

“Actually we were hoping people might try to hack the system and put in a different emotion than we had suggested, so we had three wildcard options; two of them (including #cool) were unlocked during the day.”

Socialcolour was funded by the main event sponsor, Wellington tech company Optimation, and created by Jucebox technology with students from software development school Industry Connect.

The idea was loosely based on the principles of synesthesia, Blomfield says, when someone’s brain automatically joins things like letters, numbers or a particular word with a sensory perception – a colour, for example. A synesthete might see the word “photo” as pink or the number seven as green.

Blomfield says over 2000 tweets were sent over the course of the one-day event, with “#chuffed” (golden) being the most popular emotion.

He says the quirky idea is still at a pretty early stage (as this video suggests!)

Still the concept went down well, Blomfield says.

“TEDx loved it because it gave people an additional way to engage with the event. When people are tweeting they are can be saying what they are doing, like “Hey, I’m here and I’m having a good time”, but this also gave them a way to say how they were feeling.

“People liked to see how their tweet changed the screen when they dropped it into the colour bucket.”

 Jucebox director Ulrich Frerk, who led the software development, said the idea was simple and exciting, but not without its technological challenges – particularly since they had only 10 days to complete the project.

“First we had to capture tweets through the Jucebox, assign colours and sounds and output that to the 4m-wide screen. It was challenging to code in a short period of time, but the result is a really effective piece of technology.”

Frerk says the concept is still at an early stage, but they have already had an enquiry about developing it further for another event.

“Socialcolour doesn’t end here. We have very exciting ideas for its evolution and future applications.”

Chief editor at Idealog, Nikki's a veteran in the journalism industry. A former lecturer at AUT University, she was the chief reporter at NZ weekly business publication The Independent and was deputy editor of Canadian publication Unlimited magazine.

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