Bloomberg has reported that internal Amazon documents it has seen indicate that the technology giant is working on the software and hardware for a device that is intended to ready human emotions and communicate them to its wearer.
Code-named Dylan, the bracelet or watch-like gadget is envisioned as being able to identify the emotions being felt and demonstrated by a target by analysing the sound of its voice. Amazon’s documents characterised it as a ‘health or wellness’ product.
The Dylan project is a collaboration between Amazon and Lab126, the company behind developing the hardware for the Echo smart speaker. The Alexa voice software team is also involved and work was recently an ongoing process according to the document seen by Bloomberg journalists, as well as the anonymous source who provided it.
It is not clear how far along the technology and software that would make Dylan a viable, operational device is.
It’s perfectly possible that it will be decided that progress has been insufficient to make Dylan a viable commercial product. Whatever that might mean. The documents describe offering the wearer guidance on how to socially interact more effectively with others based on the device’s interpretation of their current emotional state. Another option, perhaps more obviously monetisable, is that emotion-reading software could be used to help target advertising more effectively.
Amazon and other big technology companies often invest considerable sums in exploring products and concepts that never see the light of day. It is, however, reported that beta testing of Dylan is currently being carried out. But it is not clear if these trials are based on just hardware, or software, or a combination of the two in a prototype device. Amazon itself has, predictably, declined to comment on the report.
Technology that is able to make accurate judgements on emotional states from audio and visual inputs, is not, of course, a direction that only Amazon is working on. All of the big technology companies, from Google and Microsoft to IBM are said to be carrying out research in this direction.
Amazon is known to be ambitious in its plans to become a global leader in voice recognition software. It sees the area of technology as crucial to another of its key corporate targets – becoming a leading consumer electronics company. Among Amazon’s major hardware porjects are Apple AirPod-style wireless earbud headphones that include the Alexa software and a mobile, domestic robot codenamed ‘Vesta’, after the Roman goddess of home and family.