Spotify patents tech to recommend songs based on users’ speech, emotion

Spotify patents tech to recommend songs based on users' speech, emotion

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jan 30, 2021

The music-streaming company Spotify was granted a patent for technology that aims to interpret users’ speech and background noise to better curate the music it serves up.

Why it matters: Aside from being a little weird and invasive, the technology is an example of a future trend in computing: emotion recognition.

What’s happening: Music Business Worldwide reported this week that Spotify had filed in February 2018 and been granted this month a patent that uses “speech recognition to determine [users’] ’emotional state, gender, age, or accent’ — attributes that can then be used to recommend content.”

How it works: According to the patent filing, the company is developing technology that could extract “intonation, stress, rhythm, and the likes of units of speech” that would permit the “emotional state of a speaker to be detected and categorized.”

  • Combined with other data from a user’s listening history and past requests, appropriate music could then be recommended or played.

What they’re saying: Not surprisingly, the internet had fun with this one.

The catch: Technology companies often file patents for innovations that are never used in their products, and a company spokesperson told Pitchfork, “We don’t have any news to share at this time.”

What’s next: Whether or not this capability ever makes it into Spotify, companies are increasingly exploring technology that purports to recognize emotional states through voice tone.

  • Amazon’s new Halo fitness tracker analyzes users’ vocal tone to evaluate how they’re coming off to other people.
  • But there are concerns that emotion recognition could be misused — a report released this week from a U.K. human rights group identified dozens of companies in China using the technology, including some working with the police.

The bottom line: I’m a Spotify user, but the company wouldn’t need to read my tone to serve up emotionally appropriate music.

  • Happy? The National. Sad? The National. A bit phlegmy? The National.

MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: Spotify logo. Photo Illustration: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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