Call center employees are known to have unpleasant jobs. They answer questions from disgruntled customers all day long and can only respond using company-mandated terminology. Many expect that AI will one day replace these customer service jobs, but for now, many companies are using AI to address the incredible emotional turmoil their employees are experiencing. Well, they kind of try.

Last week, Japanese conglomerate SoftBank announced that it had developed “emotion cancellation” technology to protect employees from customer harassment, according to the British Daily Mail. Asahi Shimbun. The voice-changing technology, called SoftVoice, turns the voices of angry customers into calm ones. It aims to provide emotional support to call center employees, serving as a “mental shield” for operators.

SoftVoice developers told the Japanese newspaper that the artificial intelligence will detect the hostile tone and automatically change the customer’s tone of voice without changing his words. By 2025, the company hopes to sell the technology more widely. Frankly, this sounds like a dystopian science fiction experiment, where our overlords water down human emotions to soften corporate exchanges. But SoftBank is not alone in this patchy effort to use artificial intelligence to support struggling employees.

Memphis-based regional bank First Horizon was planning to use artificial intelligence to detect when a call center employee was about to go missing, according to American banker in March. The bank’s plan was to send employees a relaxing video containing photos of that employee’s family with music. However, First Horizon decided Failure to approve the system.

“We have been evaluating the use of AI, but have never committed to and do not plan to use this product at this time,” First Horizon said in an emailed statement to Gizmodo.

The videos, referred to as “Reset,” were to be produced by Arianna Huffington’s company Thrive Global, and include inspirational quotes with directed “breathing bubbles” to instruct the employee on comfortable breathing techniques. the report It resurfaced on social media this week.

Employees at First Horizon would choose their own images and songs to appear in the one-minute videos. First Horizon saw a 13% reduction in fatigue levels during initial testing, then a 20% reduction in a larger test. The company said at the time that it was going to roll out the technology to all 3,000 of its call center operators, but that apparently never happened.

Although it may seem strange for AI to provide emotional support to employees, this is an essential step towards replacing the jobs of call center operators. A critical function of the job is to recognize when a customer is upset and offer an apology on behalf of the company. Both SoftBank and First Horizon’s AI systems deal with emotion recognition, and that’s no coincidence. Effectively, their AI is being applied to the call center employees themselves, but one day, these companies want AI to handle disgruntled customers themselves. Until then, we’re in this weird limbo where AI addresses how miserable call center jobs are.

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