Watch your tone around Alexa

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Plus: Boeing’s AI inspector, Google’s tour guide and more.

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This morning, we’re taking a look at Amazon’s plan to make Alexa listen to the words you don’t say, Boeing’s goal to catch every loose screw, and Google’s plan to be your pocket-sized tour guide. Let’s get into it. 

#1. “Alexa, be my therapist”

As anyone in a relationship will tell you, it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. Now Amazon wants Alexa to be the ideal partner.

The company is looking to patent a system for “sentiment detection” for audio input. Essentially, Amazon wants to improve Alexa to the point where it can read the emotions in your voice, on top of what you’re saying. According to the application, the system is trained using “acoustic information and lexical information to determine a sentiment corresponding to an utterance.”

Amazon points out a few interesting use cases. In one example, a user wants to add an emoji to a text: If you sound happy, frustrated or sad and say “Alexa, add an emoji,” it will choose one based on that emotion. In another, a user says “Alexa, recommend a movie,” and the system makes recommendations based on how they sound. 

The company said in its application that this kind of speech processing could be used to “improve human-computer interactions.” So bad news if you have a habit of telling your smart speaker to shut up when a timer goes off.