Chicago Startup: Iconicast’s “Smurks” Puts The Heart In The Machine

How can you share that smile on your face through digital and mobile? How often have you misinterpreted the context of a text message because you didn’t know how the other person was feeling. Does that LOL mean laugh out loud, that’s really funny. Or does that LOL mean laugh out loud you’re really stupid?

Iconicast, a Chicago Startup, co-founder Pat Burns took the stage at DEMO in Santa Clara CA last week and talked about the three stooges movie he just saw. He gave the example of talking with a friend who asked how the movie was. In his presentation he pointed out that if the friend was in front of him the look on his face would tell the complete story.

That’s what smirks is all about. Now when you first look at Smurks, the new app by Iconicast, it may appear to be a 2012 take on the emoticon. However, the gesture based app is an extension of human emotion. Swiping up shows off a happy face, swiping down sad. Left and right offer equally as polarizing emotions via the app. In fact there are many different faces that you can make.

More after the break

But why? Well according to research, referenced by Burns, 93% of feelings are non verbal. Combine that with the fact that feelings are the number one driver for decision making and this is important data. Sure emoticons can convey emotion to a point but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve ended an email, text or instant message with a smiley face, that really said kiss my ass.

So while on the surface the app may seem a little childish at first, its actually a lot of fun, but that’s far from the entire story. With Smurks, Iconicast has caught the eye of therapists, educators and people treating those with autism. Until now there have been autism apps that are pretty much flash card based ways of autistic children and adults to communicate with friends, and family. Now with Smurks they can also convey the way they are feeling.

In fact, Iconicast reports that they have a group of neuroscientists who are using smurks to map the brains response to emotional stimulus. Each different smurk is a data point on a seven point scale in three dimensions. While the app just looks like a silly face that you can control, it’s actually a gigantic 3D graphic mood map.

With their Smurks app Iconicast can now provide a quantitative analysis of peoples feelings. In addition to the controllable facial expressions, Smurks provides an emotional rating system for anything.

With Smurks you can emotionally check into a location. Say you arrived at the zoo and the zoo made you happy, you can use a happy smurk and show that the zoo made you happy. But even further, Smurks can be customized for a business, like a movie theater. Through the smirks app the movie theater can not just list their location but the movies playing as well. So suppose you were at the local (Mark Cuban owned) Landmark theater, the theater itself made you happy. Then you checked into the Three Stooges movie and you were laughing hysterically, theres a smurk for that.

Suppose you were at the latest DEMO conference, being at the conference made you happy. Now say you were in a presentation that was boring, maybe your smurk would show boredom. What’s better though is that other people can check out the location, they would see that most people at DEMO were happy. Perhaps 10 people thought the same presentation you were in was boring as well. Someone checking out the smurks at that particular panel would see an emotional graph of that particular panel, summarized in boring and well, they may skip it.

The data provided to businesses and the data provided to therapists, educators and caretakers is priceless. For the user Smurks is fun, a way to be heard and understood and a new spin on the simple check in with incredible amounts of data.


For more on Smurks and Iconicast click here

Check out their DEMO presentation from the source here

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