TVs listening to us? Where’s the value?

TVs listening to us? Where’s the value? 1024 566 StJohn Deakins

Why would your TV eavesdrop on you?

Last week it was revealed by The Daily Beast that the Samsung Smart TV records voice commands and shares them with a “third party”. It made for great headlines – and cartoons.

It turns out that the voice sharing is pretty legitimate, at least for now, in that it just makes the service work. The “third party” is Samsung’s voice translation provider. I’d guess that Samsung doesn’t share the providers name for a simple reason of corporate convenience. So, if they change provider, they don’t need to go through the rigmarole of changing everyone’s terms of use. And “who reads the Terms of Service anyhow…”. If only for their branding, it would probably be a good idea for Samsung to provide more clarity about the third parties they use.

However, there’s more to it than that. There is a growing business in interpreting our voice information. For example, companies such as BeyondVerbal provide software that identifies our emotions from our voice data. They showcase what they can do in this interview with Steve Jobs.

Why’s this valuable? Well, one current example is the use of emotion tracking in call centers. Providing call center staff with the ability to read our emotions enables them to able to:

detect and measure a wide variety of emotions and cognitive states including stress, anger, embarrassment, satisfaction, excitement, rationality and more” (nemesysco)

and prompt call centre staff with automated “script” suggestions.


Does the operative simply say sorry, offer a refund, or push for an up-sell? If managed well, these choices have significant impacts on customer relationships and profits.

As our emotions increasingly become readable by machines, this type of automated insight can easily be built into many of the digital things that we interact with. Which will soon be pretty much everything, from cars & taxis to thermometers & thermostats – and of course, phones, tablets and TVs…

TV advertising has always been great at prompting action through emotion. The latest Dove For Men Superbowl add is designed to tug on the heartstrings of dads everywhere by imploring dads “to care”.  Engaging with us emotionally shifts product and so has a tangible impact on profits.

As our digital “things” such as TV’s increasingly use speech to make services easier to use, it’s not much of a leap to add emotional tracking. Why? Well, it’d certainly make for a more intuitive service if your TV could match a movie suggestion to your mood.

Also, as most digital services are either subsidized or paid for by advertising, it’s a natural next step to tailor that advertising to our emotional state too. The ultimate aim, is to convert attention and emotional engagement into dollars. In doing so, emotional tracking will unlock huge value.

What’s next? Market researchers already use video to track the emotions revealed by our facial expressions. This will be extended to cc:tv cameras in store and even mobile video chat applications.

As our emotions are increasingly tracked, there are ethical questions about how and where it’s being done and for whose benefit. A further question is: how will you be able to get your fair share of the value that pervasive sharing of your emotions creates?

We’ve been thinking about this and will have more updates for you soon about what we’re working on to give you better visibility, control – and the ability to unlock the value that’s yours.

Value yourself.

Feature picture credit: Pawel Kadysz

StJohn Deakins

StJohn founded CitizenMe with the aim to take on the biggest challenge in the Information Age: helping digital citizens gain control of their digital identity. Personal data has meaning and value to everyone, but there is an absence of digital tools to help people realise its value. With CitizenMe, StJohn aims to fix that. With a depth of experience digitising and mobilising businesses, StJohn aims for positive change in the personal information economy. Oh… and he loves liquorice.

All stories by: StJohn Deakins

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