Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Micro Expressions Training Videos Product Review


New Vision’s Center of Body Language is offering a micro expression online training entitled Micro Expressions Training Videos (METV) and is seeking to find its niche based on videos rather than photos. This in-depth review covers the high and low points of this product and gives an insight as whether or not this product is for you.


User Interface UPDATED!
The user interface is everything you would expect from a website based on WordPress. It is compatible with every major browser and now compatible with iPad and iPhone. It is easy to navigate though it is not always obvious where you stand in the workflow. There was no button leading back to the company homepage but a link "Go to homepage" has been added at the bottom of the page in METV since I published this product review.

I've experienced some minor issues while I was using Chrome — two videos playing at once when starting a practice, the title box not always working properly, the "Remember Me" checkbox did not work and Chrome could not fill my password in the login screen. My review triggered a prompt reaction from New Vision in which they went the extra mile to fix these issues. The fact that these issues were minor but New Vision took them very seriously gives a very good impression and shows that they care.

Furthermore, the user interface is available in few languages — English, Dutch, Spanish, French, Hebrew and Portuguese. The translations are not perfect and needs proofing by native speakers. For example, the French translation does not have any accent and sometimes the words are not in the proper order.

METV does not provide a complete full screen experience but the instructional videos have full screen capability and the practice videos too once you correctly identified the given expression. These videos are adjusted to fit the screen while in full screen.

Instructional Videos
There are 31 instructional videos covering all universal emotions and some of their variations. These videos are describing each emotion, how to recognize them and sometimes with tips and a commentary. Patryk Wezowski is providing his own voice for the voice over commentary. The downside is that he is not an English native speaker and the noticeable accent might not be appreciated in the English speaking market. He is nonetheless knowledgeable in non-verbal communication and facial expressions.

The tips given in the instructional videos are valuable and usable in your personal and professional life. The interviewing tips are particularly worthwhile.

The instructional videos are available in a resolution of 800x450, H264 video and MP4A audio format embedded into a MOV file.

Practice
There are a tremendous 283 videos available for you to practice with. Nine (9) sections are currently available for an exhaustive practice: slow speed, for beginners, normal speed, 2x speed, listening, muted, speaking, new videos and children. The videos are mostly available in a frontal-ish view though some videos are in 3/4th view.

Practicing on videos rather than photos might be significantly harder for most people but the reward is equally significant. The additional visual information provided in videos, such as the onset and offset of an expression, will help you to better identify expressions. You get three (3) chances to correctly identify a given expression.

The introduction of neutral expression is a great innovation1. The word neutral is somehow misleading because it means in this context any non-universal expression rather than an actual neutral expression. Nonetheless, it has a great pedagogical value where a customer learns that there are times in life where no micro-expression is shown.

Some emotions are considerably difficult to make voluntary. There are indeed videos that are staged with a given scenario but each has a different emotion. Scenarios have an excellent pedagogical value where you can actually see when the words match the facial expressions. METV makes it easier to connect the dots between the skills you are developing and their usage in the real world.

The challenge for me was to identify those emotions as if they were genuine even though some of them were fake, asymmetrical and/or erroneous. The risk of teaching customers to recognize a given emotion as genuine when it is not can be disastrous. All is not lost because METV could reuse those videos to introduce a “genuine versus fake” section where a customer can actually learn to distinguish one from another.

METV is missing a progress report indicator and possibly a statistics section. It is my opinion that those tools are necessary to properly improve your skills by actually knowing your weaknesses. See Statistics for Humintell Products and its follow-up.

The practice videos are available in a resolution of 480x360, H264 video and MP4A audio format embedded into a M4V file. Unfortunately, there is no high-definition (HD) video that would show every detail one could hope for.

New Vision is working on adding over a hundred new videos with a dozen different subjects being recorded while watching videos that elicit emotions. It means a greater variety and genuine emotions to practice with. Those videos should be available in January or February.

1K. & P. Wezowski, The Micro Expressions Book for Business, New Vision, Belgium 2012

Emotion Training Distribution
The number of videos available for practice is impressive. The following chart shows the number of videos for each emotion, section and gender and their totals and percentiles.


The uneven distribution in emotion and gender is an important shortcoming because it is desirable to practice each emotion evenly. The subjects are mostly males with more than 64% against nearly 36% for the females. There are 24 spots where there was no video for a given emotion or neutral expression. The number of videos per section varies from 30 to 43, which is acceptable, whereas the total number of subjects per emotion varies from 26 to 45, which is a stretch.

I am inclined to believe that the uneven distribution will eventually be fixed over time because METV is frequently updated.

Product Comparison
It is only fair to compare METV with its competing products such as Paul Ekman International’s METT and SETT and Humintell’s MiX and SubX product lines. 


Humintell and Paul Ekman International both provides scientifically validated products in which all the photos have been vetted by actual scientists as accurately portraying the emotion it says it portrays. It does make competing with them significantly harder but I had criticized photo based products for missing the onset and offset of an emotion, which is in my opinion instrumental to accurately identify emotions in all its forms — macro, micro, subtle, blended and concealed expressions — and all its views — frontal, profile and 3/4th — and under any conditions.

Kasia Wezowski has been working on a comparative analysis of METV and METT, as part of her doctorate at the University of Warsaw, which comes with interesting results. Twenty-nine (29) participants completed the test for METT first on an average of 60.34% followed by METV on an average of 41.13%. Thirty-three (33) participants completed the test for METV first on an average of 38.03% followed by METT on an average of 62.78%. Those participants did not have prior training.

New Vision clearly has the right priorities in focusing on video based products but the difference in quality with their competitors makes me wonder whether you would be better off starting with MiX/METT and thus ensuring your ability to identify emotions and expressions is accurate. The fact however remains that once you've learned the skills, you need to practice and METV is your best option — never mind watching hundreds of hours of reality TV.

All products in the market are suffering from memory association where it is possible to commit given images/videos and emotions into memory rather than actually identifying an expression, thus diminishing the practice value over time.

Customer Support
New Vision provides a caring, friendly and casual approach to customer support. Patryk Wezowski answered all my questions promptly, frequently followed up on my progress and kept me informed on the new and upcoming additions to METV. Additionally, Kasia Wezowski provided a great insight on her comparative study of METV and METT.

Pricing
METV subscriptions come in all forms and shapes for individuals, trainers and companies. The individual subscription available at €89 (109$US) for a year offers a good value for money. This is slightly more expensive than MiX Elite — Humintell’s top-of-the-line product — but both products have their own benefits.

Give Demo a Try…
Newcomers? Give a try to METV demo available for free.

Summary: Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Good value for money
  • Visible onset and offset
  • Large number of videos
  • Updated frequently
  • Good customer support

Cons
  • Quality assurance needs tuning
  • No full-screen or HD videos
  • No overall statistics and progress
  • No stand-alone application

Conclusion
Micro Expressions Training Videos (METV) is a product offering value for money. The great number of videos will quench your thirst for improving your abilities to effectively recognized micro expressions. Moreover, this product focuses on practical matter that can be used in your daily personal and professional life. The market is getting increasingly competitive to your benefit but METV provides a good training regardless of whichever product you decide to start with.

I recommend New Vision’s Micro Expressions Training Videos.

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