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[11 comments]

A computer that knows your thoughts and feelings

February 7, 2014

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from The eTail Blog, a source of exclusive content generated by and for the e-commerce community.

It won't be long before the computer you're reading this from can read your mind.

Scary thought (no offense, computer).

Or maybe it's not so scary.

Emoshape, a U.K. startup focusing on emotional technology, has built the EmoSPARK, what it's calling "the first A.I. (artificial intelligence) home console." The device can be employed for what the company calls the "overall happiness and well-being of its user," along with entertainment — not to mention help finding your keys.

How does it do it? Basically, it reads your body language. Sort of. The device monitors facial expressions and emotions. It can understand conversations. And it knows how to react to said emotions by offering solutions, such as recommending a song or YouTube video or showing an image. It even "chats" with its users to pep them up, if required. If a new user walks into the room while the EmoSPARK is employed, it knows and wants to "get to know" him/her.

[Image: EmoSPARK

The interactions work better with more use. Based on the data continually collected around the user's personalization emotional response, the EmoSpark "learns intelligently what media makes you happy, sad, excited or any other motion you can possibly imagine."

Data from other EmoSPARK devices (cubes) further refines its responses and recommendations.

"Every EmoSPARK has access to a communication grid, accessed only by other cubes, so will be able to recognize other cubes with a similar emotional profile," said founder Levy Rosenthal in a statement. "It can share media enjoyed by other cubes and then recommend this for your enjoyment. It can interact with the family, help with homework and provide up-to-the-minute updates about anything local or global. You can call up the cube and interact with it from mobile devices, via video conferencing or your pc, which will take your home media and gaming to a whole new level."

It's all very Star Trek/Her/Jetsons/Wall-E — pick your future culture poison.

The innovative new technology has seen great success in its Indiegogo fundraising campaign, earning about three quarters of its total goal of $100,000 to date. In response, Emoshape has added a stretch goal of up $300,000 sought to enable functionality with Windows Phone 8, home automation and IBM's Watson.

Production is expected to begin in 2014 for a projected release date of May 2014. The retail price is expected to be $250 per cube.

Discussion Questions:

How would you rate the appeal of an artificial intelligence home console? What role do you see for AI devices in business decision-making and at retail?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

What's the likelihood that artificial intelligence home consoles will become fairly common over the next decade?

Comments:

Seems like a great companion piece to Amazon's "anticipatory shipping" algorithm.

Not so much for either.

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Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

Very reminiscent of the comment Jeff Goldblum's character made in Jurassic Park when the raptors they created began to destroy them.

"We spent all our time asking 'can we?' and no one bothered to ask 'should we?'"

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Eric Chester, Keynote Speaker, Author, Reviving Work Ethic, LLC

Since I am old, I have been around the AI space since the mid-80s when it was going through its first phase of "gee, every business needs this." Processors, disk, and memory were huge issues back then.

Today, AI has become even more real, but in manners that assist in making decisions based on facts that can play out the impact of the decisions.

AI is not for the emotional side yet - but lots of people can be sold technology that is well marketed and has colored lights. If the computer talks "like SIRI" then it will sell.

For more reality on AI learn about the Turing Test. When AI reaches that point then I will buy a Turing "Proven" Solution and have it deal with the problems my Millennial kids cause.

Hey - have a good weekend!

Tom...AI-based (really!)

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Tom Redd, Vice President, Strategic Communications, SAP Global Retail Business Unit

I think it would be fine just as long as I can turn it off when I want and on when I want to turn it on. It would be great to tell us what to make for dinner, what looks best for fashion selection all based on our preferences and desires. Amazon is the closest thing today, as it now tells me what I like to read and so far they have been on target.

I do hope I get to do some thinking on my own though....

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Frank Riso, Principal, Frank Riso Associates, LLC

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already being integrated in recommendation engines and will continue to become more sophisticated and "intelligent." The challenge is to strike a balance between helping the shopper and removing the fundamental emotion of why we like to shop. AI could very easily choke out the "surprise and delight" of discovery if it is not implemented wisely.

As we've seen with Google, the big brands that can afford to buy "eyes" and their position at the top of internet searches squeeze out small business entrepreneurs. AI is directly associated with big data. The challenge for successful AI is to harness the exponentially growing mountain of available data. Are you "A Person of Interest?"

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Adrian Weidmann, Principal, StoreStream Metrics, LLC

I'm guessing this or something similar will eventually take off and do well, especially with younger consumers. To an old geezer, though, one wonders when enough is enough. I heard today about a new "smart badge" for employees that will monitor where they are, how long they stay in the break room and bathroom, even who they talk to, and with how much enthusiasm. Hard to say where this all ends but I'm happy we still have governments to regulate some of the invasive stuff.

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Al McClain, CEO, Founder, RetailWire.com

Based on past advances in communication technology and its popularity, there is good reason to believe this type of technology will have a similar reception.

Tom Borg, Business Expert, Tom Borg Consulting, LLC

The information technology sector is very often guilty of overstating the power and range of capabilities available. Computers can observe and record responses very accurately. They can also observe and record a group of predetermined surrounding factors that may be present at the start of or in the process of or at the end of any particular event. The collection of data can be used to update aspects of a program which should enhance user interface with the device being tasked. This and similar statistical running processes are named artificial intelligence to embellish the wonder and amazement of machines doing unexpected things to an audience lacking the awareness of how they are done.

In short the machine and software do not think. They process information and update a range of tasks they are programed to perform for the purpose of enhancing the user interface experience.

As the power of computers continues to grow, the user will observe fewer machine-like characteristics, but this will still not be independent thought processes. What will be most enhanced in the near future is our ability to freely communicate within an artificial room full of live people from all over the world that all speak a different language. The home console will enhance private lifestyles very much, but will place second to devices worn and/or carried by the user.

'gjarnoldjr'

"The device monitors facial expressions and emotions. It can understand conversations. And it knows how to react to said emotions by offering solutions, . . ." It all depends on how genuinely helpful those "solutions" are. There is a lot more of this coming, and whether this one or some others, they will change the face (or "mind?") of retail forever. (See: Retail "Spoons")

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Herb Sorensen, Ph.D., Scientific Advisor TNS Global Retail & Shopper, Shopper Scientist LLC

"Fascinating is a word I use for the unexpected. In this case, I should think "interesting" would suffice."

- Spock in "The Squire of Gothos"

Vahe Katros, Consultant, Plan B

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