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Tech giant SoftBank built emotion-canceling AI for its employees

Published Jun 18th, 2024 6:27PM EDT
Group of happy call center smiling business operator customer support team phone services agen working and talking with headset on desktop computer at call center
Image: Art_Photo / Adobe

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Customer service is a tough business. No matter what industry you’re in, there’s always a possibility that you’ll end up with someone on the other end of the line yelling at you because something went wrong. Now, it looks like Japanese tech giant SoftBank is trying to do something about it by using emotion-canceling AI to help temper screaming customers who call into its call centers.

According to reports, the system uses AI-powered voice-altering technology to transform even the angriest of callers into calmer tones, allowing customer service specialists to help them without being berated by loud screams. As someone who spent a good few years working in a call center, this kind of functionality has been sorely needed for a long time.

Unfortunately, the tech only works in Japanese right now. But SoftBank says it is working to develop it further and possibly expand it from there. The emotion-canceling AI works in two different stages. First, it uses AI voice processing to identify the caller and analyze the various characteristics of their speech. From there, the AI uses acoustic features to help create a calmer and more natural tone for the angry voices.

angry man on phone with customer serviceImage source: whyframeshot / Adobe

SoftBank says it doesn’t actually change the caller’s words; it just modifies the intonation, making it less aggressive. So, you might still get cussed out, but at least it won’t be as loud. It also doesn’t completely remove all traces of anger, as the operators still need to be able to understand the full situation and respond accordingly, the company says.

Still, it’s a noticeable difference and is all meant to help protect the mental and emotional health of the employees on the other end of the calls. Angry calls increase stress levels in call centers and lead to discontent throughout the industry. Further, the emotion-canceling AI should hopefully help cut down on harassment of call center employees by cutting down on unnecessarily angry customers, too.

The overall goal, SoftBank says, is to foster a more positive environment for its workers, as well as to foster positive interactions with its customers. It’s unclear when or if the software will be available on a wider level or how much it will cost. It is certainly an interesting way for AI to be used, though, and could provide other out-the-box ideas for researchers in the future.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.