Amazon's Alexa To Recognize Emotions

Amazon researchers are working to improve Alexa, the virtual helper that is associated with their Echo home appliance. Specifically, they want to better understand a user's intent, by having a grasp of the user's emotions.

Overall improvements to Alexa’s natural-language understanding are likely to help the device interpret ambiguous requests more accurately, by applying probabilities techniques, the source says. For example, a person who is located in Seattle may be judged more likely to be referring to the Seahawks when he or she asks, “How are the Hawks doing?”

Already, Amazon uses data about a user’s interests to prime the voice recognition system. Alexa is more likely to recognize requests to hear jazz artists from users who have previously added jazz to their digital music library, for instance.

Further improvements will see Alexa better able to hold a conversation—remembering what a person has said previously, and applying that knowledge to subsequent interactions. “That’s one of the active areas,” the source familiar with Amazon’s research says. “It is super-vital for the conversation to be magical.”

Researchers have long predicted that emotional cues could make machine interfaces much smarter, but so far such technology has not been incorporated into any consumer technology.

SF fans feel, well, emotionally about computer understanding. For example, Star Trek: The Next Generation's Commander Data made use of an emotion chip to actually feel emotions himself, which helped him understand his human coworkers and friends.

(Geordi and Data regard the emotion chp)

Arthur C. Clarke's HAL 9000 was also quite adept at determining emotions (mostly through voice harmonics).

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Via Technology Review.

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