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IBM Watson Tone Analyzer – new service now available

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Authored by Rama Akkiraju, Distinguished Engineer, Master Inventor, IBM Watson User Technologies


To read a message and to judge the tone conveyed in the message comes naturally to humans. But, at times, the tone may be overlooked, undesired, or not conveyed well by the author. Can a computer detect the tones conveyed in a message accurately and automatically? Helping humans assess and refine tone in written communication is an interesting challenge in the Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Sciences fields. At IBM Watson, we are beginning to answer this question.

IBM Watson Tone Analyzer, now available in experimental mode, is a service to help you assess and refine the tone in textual communication. This latest addition to our Watson Developer Cloud APIs and SDKs is available on Bluemix.

Building on similar linguistic analyses that power IBM Watson Personality Insights, Tone Analyzer analyses given text and provides insights about the emotional, social and writing tones reflected in that text. Such insights can be used for a number of purposes including personal and business communications, self-branding, market research, public relations management and automated contact center management.

Tone Analyzer Scorecard

The constituent parts of the three dimensions of Tone Analyzer Scorecard are explained below.

Emotional Tone: Many psychology models exist in literature to capture human emotions such as anger, fear, anticipation, surprise, joy, sadness, trust, and disgust. We have developed a model for inferring emotions from written text. Tone Analyzer captures the salient three among these that we found to be relevant for Tone analysis based on our user studies. These include: cheerfulness, negative emotions and anger. Cheerfulness refers to positive emotions such as joy, optimism, contentment, inspiration, and happiness. Negative emotions include feelings of fear, disgust, despair, guilt, rejection, and humiliation. Anger is a type of negative feeling with strong intensity such as annoyance, hostility, aggression, hurt, frustration and rage.

Social Tone: Social tone includes aspects of social propensities in people’s personality. Tone Analyzer currently uses three social tones namely: openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness adopted from the Big-five personality model. Specifically, openness is the extent to which a person is open to experience a variety of activities; agreeableness is a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative towards others; and conscientiousness is a tendency to act in an organized or thoughtful way. We use these three dimensions to illustrate the openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness of the writer as reflected in the text.

Writing Style/Tone: Writing tone provides feedback on how analytical, confident and tentative one’s writing is. Analytical tone shows a person’s reasoning and analytical attitude about things. Confidence tone indicates the degree of certainty exhibited by an individual towards something. Tentative tone shows the attitude of inhibition.

In addition, the Tone Analyzer service explains which words in the provided text contributed to which tone. Furthermore, it offers alternate word suggestions to refine the text to reflect desired tones. There is no minimum word requirement for the text input in order for the Tone Analyzer service to perform its functions well.

Try Watson Tone Analyzer!

The IBM Watson Tone Analyzer demo application shows how it works by requesting input text:

Select Analyze to show the Tone scorecard along with explanation on which words contributed to what tone:

Clicking one of the words above offers alternative words that refine the tone:

The ability to assess tone automatically becomes especially important in situations where: (a) it is impractical for humans to process large volume of articles/text to derive insights or (b) humans need the aid of a tool to act as their inner critic or tone assistant in helping refine a message being drafted or (c) virtual agents interacting with humans could benefit from understanding the tone of users to respond to them appropriately.

Application developers can write email and other social media connections tool plugins (e.g., for Facebook posts, blog posts, or dating applications) to help authors be aware of the tones they reflect in their writing and to help them refine their messages to reflect the desired tones before sending the message, thereby, potentially avoiding regrets and miscommunications. Competitive market intelligence teams, marketing teams and public relations teams can use this service to automatically assess the tone reflected in the various marketing messages, media mentions and announcements of competitors, or their own companies to flag the ones that need special attention. When combined with the IBM Speech to Text service, the Tone Analyzer service can be a powerful tool in helping humans communicate more effectively.

Sign up for IBM Bluemix and start building

The experimental service is currently available for English text input, and is free for exploration. More details about this service, the science behind it, how to use the APIs, and example applications are available in the documentation. You can also try out the service with the Tone Analyzer demonstration application.

IBM is placing the power of Watson in the hands of developers and an ecosystem of partners, entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts and students with a growing platform of Watson services (APIs) to create an entirely new class of apps and businesses that make cognitive computing systems the new computing standard.

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