The small cube developed by EmoSHAPE is much more than a smart television. It provides user-friendly control of the Internet of Things, using emotion.
‟We want to change machines but we need to do so in the style of Wall-E rather than The Terminator,” explains Patrick Levy Rosenthal, founder of London-based startup EmoSHAPE, who presented his company’s work to date at the Pioneers Festival taking place in Vienna on 24-25 May. EmoSHAPE has set out to create a sort of Siri using images. Its product EmoSPARK plugs into a TV set and a webcam and the device then responds to orders from the user. If you want to play some music or switch on the TV, EmoSPARK will respond to your orders using voice recognition. In this sense it resembles Amazon Echo.
‟We want to change machines but we need to do so in the style of Wall-E rather than The Terminator”
Where the device differs, however, is that it adds facial recognition to voice recognition. EmoSPARK can identify its user’s emotions and react accordingly. If it detects sadness, for example, it will search through its database – largely fed from the social networks – and play something that will raise your spirits. ‟It’s a type of surveillance, that’s true, but it’s positive, benevolent surveillance,” the EmoSHAPE boss assures us.
And it’s only one step from detecting emotion to creating emotion. The EmoSPARK cube in its current state of development can ‘feel’ joy, sadness and fear once it has analysed the data. The cubes can also exchange information between themselves via the startup’s servers. The intention is that, little by little, each device will evolve and acquire its own ‘personality’.
‟It’s a type of surveillance that’s true, but it’s positive, benevolent surveillance”
One question springs immediately to mind: what will be done with the data collected? A camera that is permanently shooting and tracking the emotions of its user would appear to call for a higher level of security than the traditional connected objects, which are already suffering major data breaches. ‟It’s peer-to-peer,” underlines Patrick Levy Rosenthal, adding: ‟Moreover, there’s a private mode and a confidential mode.” The EmoSHAPE boss claims that the first users – those who pledged funds via an Indiegogo campaign – are highly enthusiastic about the product. It will be interesting to see whether the broader public reacts in the same way.