Remember EmoSPARK? The artificially and emotionally intelligent cube burst onto the scene last February with a successful Indigogo campaign, raising enough cash through pre-orders to push forward with development. With very little fanfare, EmoSPARK’s PR firm announced that it would be launching the product today at a low key press event in the UK. By the looks of a few photos on Twitter, the event was small.
The company is positioning EmoSPARK as “the first AI console to detect and respond to human emotions. You can pair the EmoSPARK cube with multiple other devices, including a smartphone app, a specially designed EmoSPARK camera, and a TV. The cube also connects to your home WiFi.
This video demos the process of pairing EmoSPARK with the smartphone app. In an update on Indiegogo posted last month, the Indiegogo team explained the personalization features built into the product. During the initial set up, or “bonding sequence,” the AI console asks the user to share personal details which are stored in the Cube’s “memory cortex.” The AI promises not to look at this information without first getting the user’s permission, not to share the data without permission, and to always have the user’s best interests in mind.
Based on an earlier brief demo of the EmoSPARK AI functions, it strikes me that the device has very similar capabilities to Amazon’s Echo. The user can ask it to retrieve recipes, play music by a specific artist, and answer questions. In the case of the EmoSPARK, though, the pairing to the TV allows the AI to display videos or other images to accompany its responses.
The goals of the EmoSPARK are certainly more ambitious than those of the Amazon Echo. With its camera and AI software, it is designed to recognize faces and facial expressions and intuit emotion. In this respect, the EmoSPARK’s intended features more closely mimic those of Jibo, the social robot that’s still under development.
How will the EmoSPARK fare upon its launch? It will be interesting to hear feedback from the early adopters. My first impression of the device and its broader ecosystem, based solely on limited videos, is that it has tons of potential. On the downside, it may be a little too chatty and it looks somewhat weird. The large eyeball with its continuously dilating pupil is somewhat unnerving (and reminiscent of HAL 9000), but I suppose you could get used to it. It may be a bit more loquacious than desired, but that’s the sort of thing that can be easily refined over time.
The EmoSPARK may come across as somewhat clumsy for now, but remember how unimpressive the video game Pong was when it came out (for those born early enough to remember back that far). Look at video games now. We’ve come a long way! These are baby steps. But EmoSPARK and all the other recently released voice-enabled intelligent assistant devices prove that the future of personal AI is just around the corner.