New AI converts customers' abusive phone rants into calming tones

Can you imagine working in customer support for an airline, bank, or credit card company? The people calling in are probably scared or angry, and the support staffers have to absorb those bad vibes like a sponge. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of them go home and drink or take other drugs to soothe their nerves after hours of being blamed and screamed at.

Well, SoftBank believes it has a solution, and it sounds like something out of a dystopian sci-fi novel. According to The Asahi Shimbun's Takeshi Narabe, the Japanese tech giant has created an AI that can transform the shrieks of irate customers into the soothing murmurs of a meditation guide.

From Asahi Shimbun:

The company launched a study on "emotion canceling" three years ago, which uses AI voice-processing technology to change the voice of a person over a phone call.

Toshiyuki Nakatani, a SoftBank employee, came up with the idea after watching a TV program about customer harassment.

"If the customers' yelling voice sounded like Kitaro's Eyeball Dad, it would be less scary," he said, referring to a character in the popular anime series "Gegege no Kitaro."

The AI might make angry callers sound like blissed-out guests on a yoga retreat, but it doesn't address the real issue: people who think it's okay to verbally abuse service workers. Sure, the AI might make the job a little less stressful, but it's like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.

Nakatani admits that "AI is good at handling complaints, but what angry customers want is for a human to apologize to them." But with the rapid advancement of AI, it's only a matter of time before those human apologies are replaced by the soothing tones of a machine.

AI is either going to save us or kill us. Or both.