Researchers at technology giant Amazon are reportedly working on a wearable device that will be able to recognize human emotions from a voice.
According to Bloomberg, the project is a collaboration between experts in the Alexa division and Lab126, the development team responsible for designing the Amazon Echo, Kindle and Fire tablets. It is reportedly a “health and wellness” device that is worn on the wrist.
Based on internal documents, Bloomberg reported that the product is paired with a smartphone app and uses microphones combined with software to detect an emotional state.
The publication said the project is currently codenamed “Dylan” but it remains unclear when, or if, it will be made available. The tech appeared to be similar to a 2017 patent which emerged last year showing how a voice assistant could respond to vocal cues of a user. A diagram showed a human coughing, and Alexa offering to order cough drops with a quick delivery.
As reported by Business Insider at the time, the tech could lead to more natural conversations with virtual assistants but Amazon would likely have to address privacy concerns.
On Tuesday, Amazon Alexa senior applied scientist Viktor Rozgic revealed more information about how the company is training artificial intelligence to recognize voice emotion.
He wrote: “A person’s tone of voice can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling. Not surprisingly, emotion recognition is an increasingly popular conversational-AI research topic.
“Emotion recognition has a wide range of applications: it can aid in health monitoring; it can make conversational-AI systems more engaging; and it can provide implicit customer feedback that could help voice agents like Alexa learn from their mistakes,” Rozgic wrote.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It is the company’s automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology that converts spoken words into text and powers its consumer voice assistants, like the Echo and Echo Dot ranges.
The company told The Verge in January this year that it had now sold more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices. Reading emotions and confidence levels from human faces is already built into Amazon’s facial scanning software, Rekognition.
In the artificial intelligence game, Amazon is likely to face stiff competition from rival technology companies including Microsoft, Google and IBM, which each offer recognition software. Google’s Duplex app stunned a developer audience last year by showing off life-like responses to human interaction.
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