Human beings have fancied machines capable of understanding their deepest, darkest emotions for years. Only now, significant advancements in machine learning as well as voice and image recognition, may allow the notion to come to life. After popularizing the use of voice commands at home through its Echo line of smart speakers and Alexa voice assistant, Amazon’s next frontier seems to be one that lets machines decode human emotions – through a new smart wearable (that does not have a name yet) and of course, Alexa.
According to a Bloomberg report, Amazon’s Lab126 hardware division (that’s behind its Echo speakers and Fire devices) and Alexa team are jointly working on a project code-named Dylan. Although finer details of project Dylan remain a mystery for now, “documents and a person familiar with the program” suggest Amazon is working on a smart wearable with microphones that’s designed to work with a smartphone app.
This wearable is said to be capable of understanding human emotions from the sound of their voice and “eventually the technology could be able to advise the wearer how to interact more effectively with others.”
Project Dylan seems to be roughly based on a patent that Amazon had filed in the US in 2017 describing a system that would be capable of recognizing a range of human emotions including “joy, anger, sorrow, sadness, fear, disgust, boredom, stress, or other emotional states,” after analyzing the individuals vocal patterns. Amazon could then use the information to offer tailored responses.
Amazon’s purported smart wearable could serve as a novel health and wellness device, but it also raises many privacy concerns – concerns that have heightened after it recently came to light that Amazon reportedly has a team listening to audio clips captured by its Echo speakers. A smart device like the one Dylan aspires to achieve has the potential to entail in Amazon getting unconditional access to a treasure trove of personal information after all.
But we do not know if such a product will ever be commercialized yet. Companies like Amazon are known to simultaneously work on a host of such projects – not all make it to the mass market.