MIT Spinout Affectiva Gets $12M More from Big Investors to Pursue Big Idea

8/7/12Follow @gthuang

Affectiva knows how you feel. And Affectiva feels pretty good today.

The Waltham, MA-based tech startup, which also has operations in Santa Clara, CA, has raised $12 million in Series C funding from Horizons Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (Digital Growth Fund), and previous investors, which include WPP and Myrian Capital.

KPCB partner Mary Meeker, known to a broad audience for her tech industry reports, is joining the company as a board observer, while Horizons Ventures’ Frank Meehan is joining as a board member.

Affectiva was spun out of the MIT Media Lab by scientists Roz Picard and Rana el Kaliouby in 2009. The company is commercializing technologies for measuring emotion via webcams and wearable sensors. The webcam side of the business involves using computer vision and machine learning to assess people’s reactions as they watch video ads, trailers, TV shows, and movies; the goal is to make money through market-research insights and partnerships with online content providers. Meanwhile, the company says its wearable-sensor system is being used by hundreds of universities and companies to collect data on things like sleep, stress, and anxiety, for healthcare applications.

The bigger concept here is that Affectiva is taking a business route to try to solve a deep mystery: how a computer might be able to classify and “understand” human emotions. Given the amount of data our computers, cameras, social networks, and mobile devices can bring to bear on the question, I’m starting to think this might be doable sooner rather than later.

Affectiva has raised just under $20 million in venture capital to date. It has also received an undisclosed amount of funding through federal research grants. The company has 35 employees and is led by CEO Dave Berman.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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