Amazon.com Inc. is working on a wearable device that can read human emotions, Bloomberg News reported May 23, citing internal documents and a person familiar with the program.
The U.S. e-commerce giant is reportedly developing a wrist-worn gadget, described as a health and wellness device, in partnership with Amazon Lab126, its hardware development unit that created the Amazon Fire phone, the Echo smart speaker and the Alexa voice software.
The report comes about seven months after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Amazon a design patent for a voice-based system that is able to recognize its users' physical and emotional characteristics.
The patent, which was filed March 13, 2017, was designed to configure audio devices to respond to vocal commands, such as to play music, order goods or services, modify home settings and report news, among others. That technology is currently being used by Amazon's virtual assistant Alexa.
The 2017 patent also has a voice processing or signal processing algorithm that may be used to process users' voices to determine their emotional state. "Detectable or determinable emotions may include, among others, default or normal, happiness, joy, anger, sorrow, sadness, voice data to determine a background environment of the fear, disgust, boredom, stress, and other emotional states," according to the patent application.
Amazon said in the earlier patent application that the emotional states of users may be determined through the pitch, pulse or harmony of a user's voice.
Meanwhile, a person familiar with the program reportedly told Bloomberg that the new project, codenamed Dylan, would be able to work with a smartphone app. The device has microphones paired with software that can detect users' emotional state from the sound of their voice, the source reportedly said.
The source also told the news outlet that work on the project is ongoing, with a beta testing program underway. It is unclear whether the beta trial includes prototype hardware, the emotion-detecting software or both, the report said.
Bloomberg said Amazon declined to comment on the matter.
In April last year, Bloomberg reported that Amazon is working on home robots, codenamed Vesta, that could navigate through homes like a self-driving car. In April this year, the news outlet also reported that Amazon is working on wireless earbuds that could rival Apple Inc.'s AirPods.