User intent is a hot topic right now for SEO and content marketing. But with AI, voice recognition and other disruptive technologies entering the mainstream, how can businesses ensure that they continue to serve up great content that meets the needs of their online audience?

To begin with, we need to look at a broader definition of user intent, one that now embraces voice recognition. For example,  a company called Webempath claims that its algorithm can recognize emotion by ‘analyzing the physical properties of your voice’.  

Affectiva, a spin off from MIT, can determine anger in a voice in less than 1.5 seconds, meaning that it is almost as fast as a human being hearing the same sound. Another startup called Cogito uses AI to listen to military veterans with PTSD and then recommends whether they need help or not.

Unsurprisingly, Amazon has also invested heavily in this technology. In an interview with VentureBeat, Amazon Alexa senior applied science manager, Chao Wang, says that “emotion can be described directly by numerical values along three dimensions: valence, which is talking about the positivity [or negativity] of the emotion, activation, which is the energy of the emotion, and then the dominance, which is the controlling impact of the emotion.”

In short, Alexa will soon be able to detect the fundamental emotions in your voice: Anger, disgust, happiness, fear, sadness and surprise. Useful for the above-mentioned military and emergency services, but problematic when it comes to households, or the workplace for that matter.

But let’s examine a few scenarios anyway. What if Alexa could tell that you needed a day off or a holiday from the sound of your voice? Or that you sounded like you needed cheering up? What if it knows you are happy (research shows you are much more likely to part with your cash when you are smiling)?

Put it another way, if a connected heart monitor can be used for remote diagnosis, why not use voice recognition to assess your state of mind?

Ok, in 2019 it all sounds a bit sinister, but I think that the concept of emotion-driven user intent is still critical to content managers as well as SEO professionals. And that’s great news for any creative. All of us – copywriters, designers, videographers – understand the push-pull dynamics of emotional content.

If nothing else, the potential of voice recognition and emotion detection reminds us that at the end of the day, we’re responding to human needs, not just keywords and algorithms. And long may that continue.