Amazon is building a wrist-worn device and accompanying app that listens to the wearer’s voice to identify their emotions, according to an anonymous source as well as internal documents acquired and reported on by Bloomberg.
The system, codenamed Dylan, is intended to be used as a health and wellness product, and might be adapted to provide the wearer guidance on how they may more effectively socialize with others.
The project is a joint effort from Amazon’s hardware and Alexa voice software groups, and according to the sources was recently under active development. While a beta testing program of some kind is in the works, the company’s current progress on the system or eventual commercial plans are both up in the air.
Amazon declined to comment to Bloomberg on the story. Luisbrandao has reached out to the company for a statement, and will update this story with any response.
WHY IT MATTERS
With its popular consumer tech brands, extensive retail distribution infrastructure and recent interest in healthcare, Amazon is capable of making an impact with any new products it may release.
Its Alexa devices in particular have already found a place in many consumers’ homes, while its voice interface technologies have been eyed by the healthcare industry as an opportunity for several health-related use cases — aging in place, patient-provider communication, physician notes and patient engagement, to name a few.
WHAT’S THE TREND
Voice-based emotion detection has long been the calling card of Beyond Verbal, an Israel and Massachusetts-based startup that was founded in 2012 and, as of a few years later, had brought in a total of roughly $10 million from investors. Of note, the company launched an API in 2017 that would allow virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa to tap into the speaker’s emotions, and prior to that another API for smartphones and mic-equipped wearable devices.
Meanwhile, other startups like NeuroLex, Sonde, WinterLight Labs have each developed platforms that rely on vocal biomarkers such as pitch, volume, vocabulary and other variables to detect physical and cognitive disorders among speakers.
But Amazon’s interests in health and wellness extend beyond vocal emotion analysis. Since April alone, the company kicked off its PillPack marking campaign with a wave of emails to its Prime users, and celebrated HIPAA-compliant data transfer for its digital assistant with the release of new healthcare skills.