Amazon’s rumored new device understands human emotions

I think it’s safe to say that Amazon will rule the world someday. If Alexa and the rumors that she’s listening to you a bit too closely weren’t off-putting enough, then brace yourselves: Amazon’s rumored new device reads your emotions by picking up vocal cues.

Bloomberg reported that Amazon has been working on developing a wrist-worn device that can read human emotions. It is meant to be a health and wellness product, and works in tandem with a smartphone app. Through a microphone paired with smart software, the device can discern the emotional state of the wearer based solely on their voice. The device could then “advise the wearer how to interact more effectively with others.”

As of now, it’s unclear whether or not this will become a commercial device. Though the beta testing is underway, Amazon teams are allowed to experiment with products that may never hit the market.

In 2017, Amazon filed a patent for emotion-detecting software. The software analyzes vocal patterns to determine how the user is feeling and can pick up on “joy, anger, sorrow, sadness, fear, disgust, boredom, stress, or other emotional states.” A patent diagram shows an example of the software’s capabilities: A woman is coughing and sniffling and tells Alexa she’s hungry. The software recognizes the symptoms of illness and asks if she’d like a recipe for chicken soup. The patent also “specifically describes the ability to detect ailments such as PTSD, isolation, and depression based on call and text frequency and audio cues.”

In theory, this voice technology and reading emotions could be used to curate even more targeted ads. Feeling sick like the example woman above? Chicken soup ad. Showing signs of depression? Perhaps you’ll get anti-depressant advertisement. The more specific data your voice provides, the better the ads can target you. It brings strange and unsettling new possibilities for the future of human interactions with technology. We’d all thought of flying cars and teleportation, but I never would have pictured a wristwatch recommending a therapist.