This ‘Emotion-Canceling’ AI Alters Angry Voices for Call Center Staff

Customers who phone into support call centers could soon have their voices changed to make them sound less angry or upset to call center workers.

Japanese telecom company and investment firm Softbank is developing what it calls “SoftVoice,” an AI-powered “emotion-canceling” tool for call center workers. SoftVoice allows its users to be able to “change” the voice they’re listening to so that it sounds more calm and less angry with the click of a button. For Softbank, AI’s monotone tendencies aren’t a bug, but a feature.

Softbank reportedly hired 10 actors to help train SoftVoice, and the AI was fed over 10,000 pieces of voice data. The AI is supposed to be able to detect angry voice tones and yelling, and will soften the offending voice. The AI isn’t designed to remove all of the angry notes entirely, but to keep just a slight hint of the frustration so that the call center responder is still able to get some vague sense of how to respond.

“The solution is expected to help lighten the psychological load of call center operators and create a work environment where they can work safely to provide even better services to customers,” Softbank said in a statement this month. Reuters previously reported that Softbank was working on the voice-softening AI tool.

A look at SoftVoice’s interface. (Credit: Softbank)

An image of the in-development AI tool’s interface shows a simple On/Off toggle, as well as different options to select a feminine- or masculine-sounding voice. Softbank expects to be able to sell the “emotion-canceling” solution in the 2025 fiscal year, sometime before the end of March 2026. This means call center staff could get access to the tool as soon as next year.

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Customer support phone lines often have automated menus that can sometimes make it difficult and time-consuming to speak to a real human. SoftVoice’s launch would bring yet another layer of separation and automation between a caller and a real human support agent.

For call center workers, however, SoftVoice could be a critical tool to help them stay sane at their jobs. But some callers might be unhappy knowing their voices are being changed. It’s currently unclear whether callers would be warned in advance that their voice may be processed and altered by the AI tool.

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