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Who's Angry, Who's Pleased?  Ask the Machine


You've probably heard of electronic devices that sense physical movement. They're called "motion detectors." They help catch intruders at art museums and in people's homes. Now, scientists have come up with technology that reads people's feelings. Not motion. E-motion!

You might wonder who would want a machine that takes note of people's anger, delight, impatience, and so forth. We can pick up on these emotions ourselves, just by listening. But the machine adds something. Here's how it's used:

Thousands of times each day, people call companies on the telephone. They want to buy something, or get a problem resolved, or speak to technical support about say, their computers or lawn mowers or carpentry projects. Usually, they first get a recorded greeting and list of departments. And then a voice often says the call may be recorded for quality-control purposes.

Well nowadays, in addition to random recording of calls, some companies monitor ALL calls using an electronic emotion detector. This device can tell when a customer or agent's voice is rising in anger, for instance, keep track of when in the call this occurs, and with which agent. The detector can also make note of every time a customer uses certain words, like "disgusted," "confused," or "upset." And it can tell every time a competitor's brand name is mentioned.

This helps a company identify an unfriendly customer-service agent or technician. It can watch out for pressure points in a conversation in which customers threaten to switch to competitors, and can identify who they are.

Emotion detectors. It's only a matter of time till we have telephone LIE detectors. Imagine the havoc that will cause in the workplace when people call in sick!

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