Today, just about every facet of everyday life can be automated or customized to suit consumer preferences and moods. This shift to customizing private spaces is especially prominent in smart home tech — and other industries are following suit.
A technical setting for every mood
Inhalewith just a brief verbal cue, can release scents that correlate with your mood, whether you’re feeling upbeat, cheerful, anxious, or sleepy. Phillips Hue lights have pre-programmed scenes such as ‘relax’ or ‘focus’ that synchronize directly with televisions and other entertainment systems to provide pulsating, supplemental lighting.
This trend to stage the light is even extending to the automotive space through mood lighting systems. Kia’s EV6 offers ambient lighting that drivers can manually adjust based on how they are feeling. A calm, relaxing evening can inspire shades of aquamarine, while an energetic road trip can evoke neon green.
Join TNW in Valencia!
The heart of technology comes to the heart of the Mediterranean
Besides being just plain fun, using multisensory technology to control our environment can actually help calm the nerves, increase productivity and generally put us in a better mood after a long day at work.
But while these mood-based settings are selected and controlled by consumers, the smart home technology of the future promises to automatically read and adjust our moods. Imagine bringing a date home and (even without a quick handclap) your smart home dims the lights, lines up some Barry White on the stereo and chills a bottle of white in the fridge.
What does the house of the future look like? We spoke to TNW’s founder and smart home tech enthusiast Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten about the joys of living in a connected home, futuristic product design and what happens when AI really gets to know you.
In addition to the hilarious and potentially horrific situations that can arise from this, it also raises ethical questions. Do we really want our homes to read our mood? How should the data collected by these devices be used and stored and who should have access to it?
When technology responds to your emotions
Using machine learning, software programs can now collect data points using speech recognition, images, and facial expressions. This gives the system insight into a user’s mood, allowing it to predict what a user might want, even without their guidance.
A rising example in AI is Amazon Halo, a wearable bracelet that partners with a range of vendors to share data about a user’s sleep, diet and exercise routines. In addition to the normal “Fitbit” style features, it has also introduced a voice analysis tool called “Tone” that “analyzes energy and positivity in a user’s voice.” The idea is to help users identify patterns so they can improve their social interactions. For example, Tone can analyze how a stressful working day influences the ‘positivity’ of your conversations with family and friends.
Do your due diligence
‘Emotion AI’ does raise some privacy concerns. A big question in the smart home space, especially when it comes to mood and voice analytics, is how personal data is collected, processed, and stored. If data is collected within a home and sent to a remote server, it must travel from the intimate areas of a private home to an unknown location to be processed before returning with a decision to turn on a light switch or open a door to unlock. That long journey of data carries the risk of corruption.
Eric Wellander, a US-based smart home Youtuber, firmly believes that the consumer is the one who holds the cards. A trained software developer, Welander was always interested in ways to automate parts of everyday life and started dipping his toes into smart-home technologies while living in an apartment. When he bought his first home, the possibilities exploded. He launched his YouTube channel to research the advancements in new smart home gadgets such as sensors, cameras, and thermostats, documenting his journey along the way.
Even as an avid fan of smart home technology, Welander knows that the line between convenience and privacy is always a delicate dance in this industry. “Any technology you put into your home should come from a company you trust,” Welander said.
Some companies choose to differentiate themselves in the market through their privacy standards, such as Eve Home based in Munich, Germany. Eve prides herself on avoiding cloud storage altogether and limiting her own exposure to user data. Apple’s security is often praised in the US market for its end-to-end encryption standards.
Applied Sciences founder and former CEO Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, who also lives in a ‘connected home’, is looking for similar features in his smart home products. “My intelligent doorbell works with a closed system and does not upload or store images in the cloud.” Veldhuijzen van Zanten always conducts extensive research before purchasing new smart home technology, but admits that he cannot completely rule out risks. “Even if you’ve done your due diligence and chosen a startup you trust, chances are the startup will one day be acquired by a larger company. Then your data suddenly belongs to a company for which you have not registered.”
Still, he is curious about the possibilities of mood-based technologies for the time being. “I would love it if my house or car could read my mood: turn on soft lights when I’m feeling a little down, put on some uplifting music, maybe turn up the heat. As long as privacy is guaranteed, emotional AI is an exciting new frontier that could help us put souls into machines.”