Having trouble sharing your feelings? Very soon Amazon may be able to understand you better than your significant other.
Bloomberg reported that the tech giant behind software recognition pals Alexa and the Echo smart speaker is working on a wearable device that will be able to read human emotions. The wrist gadget works with a smartphone app, including embedded microphones “that can discern the wearer’s emotional state from the sound of his or her voice,” Bloomberg said.
Already a billion-dollar business, the voice market continues to grow with no show of slowing down, and is expected to hit $15.5 billion by 2029, according to business analytics firm IdTechEx. And Amazon is not the only player. IBM, Google, Microsoft and others are all working to develop technology to read emotions through images, audio and other portals.
The innovation comes at a time when consumers are quite wary of technology companies collecting personal data through biometric scans and eye patterns across the screen. The latest reveal that yes, Alexa is actually listening to you, doesn't help—nor do the 1,000 Amazon employees tracking everything users say.
Amazon claims to listen as a service to the consumer, to continue to make Alexa even better and even improve the effectiveness of their interactions with others.
“This information,” Amazon tells Bloomberg, “helps us train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems; listening helps Alexa better understand “your requests” and “ensures” it “works well for everyone.”
Of course, there is always more to the story of data collection than just a consumer’s well-being. For Amazon, and marketers everywhere, this software could help provide the most specific emotional insights to date to promote product recommendations, targeted ads, and eventually, the creation of products that could impact and relate to mental and physical health.
According to The Verge, a company called Voicesense is already collecting voice data for clients to analyze and identify what a person may want or need, making voice data research a commodity. The company uses “real-time voice analysis during calls to evaluate whether someone is likely to default on a bank loan, buy a more expensive product, or be the best candidate for a job.”
The jury is still out on whether the public is comfortable being used as guinea pigs for what is essentially advertising research, as it's still a relatively new method. Public relations professionals and communicators should definitely keep an eye on this for the future, as it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. The wild west of voice data collection may be the future of audience research or discovering consumer sentiment about a brand. Just remember, when Alexa is in the room, you are no longer alone.