In a week dominated by the U.S. China trade war, and Huawei’s ban from doing business with American tech companies, Bloomberg is reporting that Amazon is working on developing a voice-activated wearable device that can recognize human emotions.
According to internal documents reviewed by Bloomberg, Amazon describes the “wrist-worn gadget” as a health and wellness product.
Bloomberg sources also revealed that Amazon’s software team, which is the group behind Alexa, and Amazon’s Lab126 hardware division, which is the group behind Amazon’s Fire phone and Echo smart speaker, are collaborating jointly on the wearable device which is currently still in development.
The device is said to be designed to work with smartphones via an app. According to documents and a source familiar with the program
“the device has microphones paired with software that can discern the wearer’s emotional state from the sound of his or her voice”.
It still remains unclear how far along the program has come or what the commercial viability of the device will be.
It’s also worth noting that last October, Amazon was granted a patent that described ways to make Alexa more aware of a user’s physical or emotional state.
One thing is practically guaranteed, however, and that is that this program will come under heavy scrutiny. While this device could greatly help machines interact better with us to more effectively anticipate our needs, if successful, it would also help Amazon improve its targeted advertisements to make better product recommendations. This will most certainly add fuel to the debate about data privacy. Just last month, Bloomberg reported that Amazon has a team listening to and annotating audio clips captured by the company’s Echo line of voice-activated speakers.