Microsoft patent describes ’emotional’ AI that produces personalized responses

microsoft emotional assistant patent cortana 1
Artificially intelligent voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and Google’s eponymous Google Assistant are powerful time-savers, but you won’t mistake one for a human anytime soon — their responses tend to be a little robotic. However, researchers are hard at work on more personalized, life-like assistants, and Microsoft may be at the forefront.

A patent filed by Microsoft in November 2015 and granted in May, titled “Emotionally Connected Responses from a Digital Assistant,” describes an AI-powered companion that has the ability to respond to reminders, calendar entries, and other tasks in a highly specific, contextually appropriate way.

“Personalized or digital assistants are increasingly becoming popular and are continuously becoming more personalized,” the patent states. “For example, digital assistants have unique voices, names, etc. Additional personality dimensions are constantly sought out in an effort to increase connections with users.”

Amazon Echo

Microsoft’s two-pronged solution includes “personalized messages” to certain “inputs,” and canned responses during “predetermined events.” If you feed the assistant what Microsoft describes as “exemplary emotional inputs” — “I love you,” for example, or “Will you be my girlfriend” —  it’ll respond with a “personalized message,” potentially in the form of  “unique handwriting.” If, on the other hand, it’s your birthday, a holiday, or an anniversary (a “predetermined event”), the assistant will acknowledge the special day in question.

Microsoft isn’t the only firm experimenting with highly personalized, emotional AI. According to the MIT Technology Review, retail giant Amazon is working on “significant” language processing upgrades to Alexa, its voice assistant, that may allow it to accurately detect the emotion in your voice. It’s also said to be developing an advanced language model that would be able to comprehend “ambiguous requests” — the sort of vague questions that throw the current version of Alexa for a loop.

More recently, Amazon introduced tools that make Alexa sound “more like a human.” The new Speech Synthesis Markup Language lets developers of “skills” — third-party apps that extend Alexa’s capabilities — add pauses, change the pronunciation of words, add audio snippets, spell out words, and insert special words and phrases.

google home uk
The Google Home is powered by Google Assistant. Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Google, meanwhile, enlisted the help of Google Doodle head Ryan Germick and ex-Pixar animator Emma Coats to help give the Google Assistant “character.” They programmed the Assistant with a “relatable childhood,” and added “humorous” responses that would make it sound “conversational.”

“There have been studies that show that it doesn’t necessarily matter if you instantly click with someone,” Coats said in an interview with Fast Company. “One thing we do is to make the character as entertaining as we possibly can so that you want to spend time with it.”

Smart Home

Project Alias is a ‘smart parasite’ that stops smart speakers from listening

Two designers chose to do something about nosy smart speakers. The result is Project Alias, a "smart parasite" that whispers nonsense to Google Home and Alexa until it hears a specific wake word.

Here’s how to download podcasts and listen to them on Android or iOS

Podcasts have become a cultural staple. Here's how to download podcasts and listen to them on your Android or iOS device, and which apps to use if you're looking to get the most out of the format.
Home Theater

Want to mirror your smartphone or tablet onto your TV? Here's how

A vast arsenal of devices exists to allow sending anything on your mobile device to your TV. Our in-depth guide shows you how to mirror content from your smartphone or tablet to the big screen from virtually any device available.
Movies & TV

From premiere date to footage: Here's all we have on 'Game of Thrones' season 8

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.

Apple Pay coming to more top U.S. stores, including Target and Taco Bell

Apple Pay is the best way to pay on your iPhone and Apple Watch. Apple Pay support is being rolled out across the U.S. for a variety of top retailers, including Taco Bell, Target, Hy-Vee, and more.

Tune in to the best internet radio stations for your listening pleasure

Even in the streaming era, radio stations get some of the best exclusives and curate some of the finest handpicked playlists around. Here are the best internet radio stations, for your listening pleasure.

The 2020 iPhones may only use OLED displays and Intel 5G modems

While some reports hinted that Apple was looking to move away from using Intel tech, a new report suggests the exact opposite. Reportedly, Apple has chosen Intel to supply 5G modems for Apple's first 5G-enabled iPhone, due in 2020.
Home Theater

Spotify adds artist-blocking feature, despite its denials

Though it continues to claim you can't do it, there is plenty of evidence that Spotify added an artist-blocking feature to its platform, making it easy for users to never hear a specific musician or band.

With weeklong battery life, the new Honor Watches are a real Dream to wear

Honor has unveiled the new Honor View 20, one of the best smartphones of the year. Alongside it, however, the company also took the wraps off of the new Honor Watch Magic and Honor Watch Dream.

2019's 10 best dating apps to help you find the perfect companion

Everyone knows online dating can be stressful, time-consuming, and downright awful. Check out our top picks for the best dating apps, so you can streamline the process and find the right date, whatever you're looking for.

Moschino glams up the 48-megapixel Honor View 20 at Paris launch

After its success with the View 10 in 2018, Honor has announced its sequel, the Honor View 20 with an entirely new type of display which has a hole-punch for the camera rather than a notch.

10 top features you should be using on your Apple Watch

The Apple Watch can do more than just tell you the time, but you may not be aware of all the different functions it has. Our list of the 10 most often used functions and features will help you understand what it can really do.

Get your photos on billboards with Apple’s 2019 ‘Shot on iPhone’ program

Like previous years, Apple has once again launched its Shot on iPhone program, which encourages users to submit the best photos they've taken with their iPhone. Ultimately, the winners will get their photos featured on billboards.

Embrace your inner Dr. Frankenstein with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and this cool app

Ever wanted to make your favorite toy come alive? If so, and you have a Huawei Mate 20 Pro, then you need to grab the 3D Live Maker app and try out some augmented reality magic. Here's how to use it.