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Lucy: For years, Affectiva has been able to detect emotions with its facial recognition tech. Now it’s adding the ability to do so by listening to your voice.

Dylan: Affectiva, one of the top 10 funded artificial intelligence startups in Boston, announced that it is launching cloud-based API software that can distinguish emotion in speech, which the company says brings it closer to developing the first ever multi-modal emotion AI. The announcement was made at the company’s Emotion AI Summit today.

In an interview with BostInno, Abdelrahman Mahmoud, a product manager at Affectiva, said the company envisions a number of use cases for its new software. That includes customer support environments where honing in on a customer’s verbal expressions could indicate whether they need to be elevated from an automated voice service to a human support professional. The company also sees the potential for use in market research, an area Affectiva has already been working in with its facial recognition tech.​

But perhaps the most compelling use case Affectiva envisions is for the automotive industry, where the ability of a vehicle to detect emotions could determine whether you need more help with directions, among other things.​

In an interview earlier this year, Affectiva CEO and co-founder Rana el Kaliouby told BostInno that emotion AI could help with things like detecting driver distraction or drowsiness. She added that it could also become a critical component in autonomous vehicles, where detecting a passenger’s emotions could help a car determine whether to slow down or pull over.

“Artifical emotional intelligence is going to be just as critical to our AI systems,” she said. Read more: Affectiva Can Now Detect Emotion in Your Voice, Adding to Facial Recognition Tech

Dylan: As Amazon considers which city to build a second headquarters, several senior executives are putting forward Boston as their preference, according to a new Bloomberg report. After Bloomberg published the story, Amazon denied the report, saying that “there are no front-runners at this point.” My take: It’s probably true that Boston is seen as a top option for several Amazon executives, but the company doesn’t want to lose out on the chance to receive a compelling offer from somewhere else. Read more: Several Amazon Execs Favor Boston for Second HQ [Report]

Lucy: We’re still taking a look at Portland, Maine, for our Inno on the Road series, where we cover other innovation hubs in New England. After Dylan’s profile of Chimani, this time it’s my turn to explore a big, well-established $1B company based in South Portland, Maine. Can you guess what is it? Clue one: It offers two paid days off so all employees could take time for volunteering, and a 20-day long sabbatical program so people who’ve been at the company at least six years can “go experience the world.” Clue Two: It currently has offices in the U.S., Brazil, Europe and Australia. Read more: This $1B Maine Company Offers Employees Two Paid Days Off for Volunteering

Dylan: Mobee, a Boston-based retail intelligence startup, has merged with a West Coast company working in the same space called Quad Analytix. Combined, they will go under the name Wiser Solutions. A little trivia: Mobee CEO Hal Charnley was originally planning to raise a new round of funding, but a meeting in Las Vegas earlier this year with Quad’s CEO changed the company’s course. Read more: Mobee Merges with West Coast Startup, Plans Acquisitions in Retail Tech Space 

Lucy: MassChallenge is expanding. The Boston-based network of startup accelerators will launch its newest program in the Austin/San Antonio region. The program aims to accelerate up to 100 startups, which will compete for up to $500K in equity-free cash awards. Our very own Brent Wistrom has the story for Austin Inno. Read more: MassChallenge Launches Accelerator Network in Texas

Dylan: Ahead of Roomba’s 15th birthday next week, iRobot’s stock price is getting pummeled over a report that Needham-based SharkNinja’s new, competitively priced robotic vacuums could pose a threat to the company. IRobot’s stock is down by a little under 12%. This seems to be prompted by Spruce Point Capital questioning whether iRobot can fight off the new competition from SharkNinja, which is now advertising robotic vacuums on its website. In a statement provided to me, iRobot said it has sold more than 20 million robots worldwide, and that it has seen “incredible movement” within iRobot and the robotics industry at-large.

“Other companies are realizing what iRobot has known all along –  that some jobs, like vacuuming and mopping, are best suited for a robot. We welcome good competition as it will help to expand the overall market,” iRobot added.

Dylan: Boston-based Ori, an architectural robotics furniture company, announced that it has closed a $6M Series A Funding round led by San Francisco-based Khosla Ventures. ​

Dylan: Folks, I made a goof in yesterday’s Beat. I mistakenly said that Connexys, which Bullhorn acquired, was based in London. It’s actually based in the Netherlands. Het spijt me.

CoreSite: Systems fail. Mistakes happen. It’s how you plan ahead and recover that matters. The shift to XaaS and mobile applications means that 100 percent uptime is literally mission-critical. Fortunately, foundational cloud technologies are maturing, and that includes business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) strategies. Read More: Avoid Downtime – 3 Types of Cloud and Colocation Models to Know

Got anonymous tips for BostInno? Contact us.

GM: Kyle Gross (KG)
Staff Writer: Dylan Martin
Staff Writer: Lucia Maffei (Lucy)

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