In a Mood? Call Center Agents Can Tell

The New York Times:

IN a YouTube clip from one of Steve Jobs’s last interviews, he appears to be enjoying reminiscing about how he first hit upon the idea for the keyboardless tablet that eventually became the iPad.

“I had this idea of being able to get rid of the keyboard, type on a multitouch glass display and I asked our folks, could we come up with a multitouch display that I could type on, I could rest my hands on and actually type on,” Mr. Jobs says, smiling slightly as he recounts his enthusiasm at seeing the first prototype. “It was amazing.”

But in a billboard superimposed over the nearly two-minute video clip, an emotion analytics company called Beyond Verbal has added its own algorithmic evaluation of Mr. Jobs’s underlying feelings. It is an emotion detection system meant to parse not the meanings of people’s words, but the intonations of their voices.

“Conflict between urges and self-control. Loneliness, fatigue, emotional frustration,” the ticker above Mr. Jobs’s head reports as he speaks. Moments later, it suggests a further diagnosis: “Insistence, stubbornness. Possibly childish egoism.” And then concludes: “sadness mixed with happiness. Possibly nostalgia.”

“It seems to me that the biggest risk of this technology is not that it violates people’s privacy, but that companies might believe in it and use it to make judgments about customers or potential employees,” says George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. “That could end up being used to make arbitrary and potentially discriminatory decisions.”

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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