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Feeling down? Alexa could soon know your emotional state

Remember mood rings? They were these tacky rings that allegedly knew your mood and changed colors accordingly. Back in the ’70s, people thought they were a laugh riot. Well, this new technology reportedly in the works by Amazon is no laughing matter. In fact, it’s downright creepy.

Amazon is said to be working on a new gadget that will be able to assess your emotional state based on your voice. We already know Alexa is always listening to us. Now we have to worry about another Amazon product playing armchair psychologist, too?

The device would be worn around the wrist and will be voice-activated. Not surprisingly, privacy advocates are concerned.

Amazon gadget would dig deeper into our personal information

Bloomberg obtained insider documents stating the retail giant already is working on the device and describes it as a health and wellness product.

The gadget is being created through a collaboration between Lab126, the hardware development group behind Amazon’s Fire phone, and the Alexa voice software team.

To pull off a feat such as the one Amazon is attempting would require artificial intelligence (AI) that needs reams of information. The AI would need to be taught how human voices change in different emotional states. Then, AI would need to learn how to tailor data to its user’s voice. The eventual goal would be to train the device to actually advise the user.

Amazon knows your shopping habits, your personal and financial information, hears everything you say via Alexa and now wants to delve into your psyche. Nope, not creepy at all.

While Amazon refuses to comment on the proposed gadget, it’s important to note the company filed a patent in 2017 for a system that would use software to analyze a human voice to determine whether a person is experiencing “joy, anger, sorrow, sadness, fear, disgust, boredom, stress, or other emotional states.”

An anonymous source told Bloomberg that beta testing on some part of the product is already underway.

The race to build a better virtual assistant

Amazon’s move comes at a time when Alexa’s main rival, Google Assistant, is being updated.

At Google’s I/O developer conference earlier this month, the company previewed its “next-generation” Assistant. As was demonstrated, the next-gen Assistant answers questions up to 10 times faster than the original one. Along with being faster, the new Assistant is smarter thanks to Google’s neural network research and speech recognition.

Currently, the Assistant is on 1 billion devices, as it comes preinstalled on phones running Android.

As it works on the emotion monitor, Amazon also reportedly has secretly been working on a line of robots that are close to being tested in real-world scenarios. The project’s name is “Vesta,” and it is aimed at creating robots that could essentially live with us.

Vesta is being built by the same group that created Amazon’s Echo products. So, it’s likely the robot will be more like an Echo on wheels, following you around the house and always within earshot.

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