AI

Zoom could soon add controversial emotion recognition features to its platform

Some researchers say the tech doesn’t work, and others argue it’s a bad idea regardless.
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Francis Scialabba

· less than 3 min read

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When Zoom calls and phone convos replace in-person meetings, some of the subtleties of communication—like body language and tone—are bound to get lost.

Companies that make “emotion-recognition” algorithms have cropped up in a controversial attempt to help solve this issue, selling software that they claim can parse emotions in video and phone calls.

  • Last week, Protocol reported that Zoom is planning to add emotion-recognition software to its product, for now focused on helping sales teams.
  • And Uniphore, a startup that sells emotion recognition tech to sales, HR, education, and health care customers, raised a $400 million Series E in February.

But, but, but…The technology’s efficacy is dubious, some researchers say, and others argue that even if it did work, this sort of tech is a bad idea due to privacy risks and potential discrimination.

For its part, Zoom rolled out a limited version of this tech last week, called Zoom IQ for Sales. It analyzes sentiment after a meeting concludes, rather than in real-time.

  • The company is researching how to incorporate emotion-recognition tech into forthcoming projects, and cited studies to Protocol that suggest some improvements have been made in the field.

Big picture: A key concern among critics is that emotion-recognition AI will be used by managers to surveil and discipline employees. And, even more controversially, students.

It’s not a misplaced fear: In general, worker surveillance software has exploded with the rise of remote work. Pre-pandemic, just 30% of companies had adopted such tech, per Gartner data reported by HR Brew—by the end of 2021, that figure had doubled to 60%.

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