Customer Service Bots Are Getting Better at Detecting Your Agitation

Illustration by Oscar Bolton Green SRI International, the Silicon Valley research lab where Apple’s virtual assistant Siri was born, is working on a new generation of virtual assistants that respond to users’ emotions.As artificial-intelligence systems such as those from Amazon, Google, and Facebook increasingly pervade our lives, there is an ever greater need for the machines to understand not only the words we speak, but what we mean as well—and emotional cues can be valuable here (see “AI’s Language Problem”). “[Humans] change our behavior in reaction to how whoever we are talking to is feeling or what we think they’re thinking,” says William Mark, who leads SRI International’s Information and Computing Sciences Division. “We want systems to be able to do the same thing.” SRI is focused first on commercial…


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