Mental health and marketing. They're not two subjects you'd necessarily expect to cross paths, but while EI Technologies' Xpression app has been built for the former, it seems like it could be a perfect fit for the latter too.
The app uses voice recognition technology to detect the user's emotional state through the tone of their voice, based on telltale acoustic features, rather than the words they're saying. These features are universal, according to – and as EI founder Matt Dobson points out, that means language isn't a barrier.
Xpression is intended to enable patients with conditions like depression to log their emotions on a day-to-day basis for therapy purposes – with a medical insurance provider signed up to use the technology in a pilot scheme later this year.
Current attempts to track this kind of day-to-day progress rely on technology like body heat sensors, which are expensive – but after read about voice recognition in a science magazine, he realised that it could be used to bring the same idea to a mass market.
The app has been expanded past its original remit, to play a role in the treatment of disorders including Alzheimers, ADHD, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s Disease. But going wider still, it's hard not to see other potential applications for the technology – or at least something like it – in the future.
The main aim of the technology – which Dobson assures me is fairly unique – is to bring voice recognition towards something more recognisably human. “Siri is fairly autistic,” as Dobson puts it. By that, he means that it knows what the user is saying, but only can't feed back to that in any meaningful way.
There are a myriad of ways this development could be applied – from improving the honesty of market research responses to sharpening CRM – even if, for now at least, EI Technologies seems to have no intention of pursuing these avenues itself.