Each week, Padilla’s Insights + Strategy team stands at the intersection of people, culture and brands to bring you five stories that you can read in five minutes.

1. Hey Alexa, are they going to break up with me?

According to a report published by eHarmony, digital assistants may now have the propensity to anticipate when a romantic relationship is about to end. Why should you care? As we find ourselves increasingly navigating a world more closely resembling sci-fi, the lines between “good” and “bad” technology blur as the discussions transition from if something is possible to should we create it. Predicting relationships are an excellent example of this gray ethical minefield. There are the philosophical questions. Does this threaten sacred or fundamental human experiences or enhance them? Paralyze people with choices or streamline them? That’s just scratching the surface for an individual, but for a brand, this unlocks so many possibilities. Obviously this can be used to sell better matchmaking services, but if a brand knows your relationship is about to end, it can optimize (and possibly manipulate) your emotions to buy products: ice cream, tissues, rom-coms, alcohol, or whatever it “knows” you are craving. A patent recently filed by Amazon (for Alexa to analyze speech patterns to predict a break-up) shows the question is no longer if it is possible, but if it is a good idea. [Vox]

2. Emotional interpretation

Huawei, the Chinese tech giant, has introduced new technology using algorithms and artificial intelligence to translate another person’s emotions into a distinctive sound for blind individuals during a conversation. Why should you care? So much of human communication is through subtle social cues which can make it difficult for those with vision impairments, or those on the autism spectrum, to communicate. This technology exemplifies how acute insight on human needs can translate into great design. Not to mention, how technology can be used for good. [Dezeen]

3. Floppy-eared friends join TSA

TSA has recently implemented a new policy to use more dogs with “floppy ears” in their canine units throughout airports nationwide. Why should you care? This illustrates that every industry can find ways to improve their customer experience. The switch was prompted by a TSA finding that dogs with “pointy ears” were often frightening to children. It would be easy to dismiss this as insignificant since it does not alleviate the primary pain-points of travelers (long lines and elaborate screening procedures). However, it will certainly help parents in reducing their stress, it may have other positive ripples for the overall ambiance of airport security. [The Matador Network]

4. Choose your own adventure 2.0

Over the holidays, Netflix reinvented the classic “choose your own adventure” format with the release of the interactive episode, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Why should you care? On the surface, this creates so much more engagement with viewers that lives beyond the episode itself. People are encouraged to watch multiple times to see the various endings and compare/contrast with others online and offline. This could be the future of television..or not. For those who find themselves complaining about an ending, an interactive format theoretically enables more people to be satisfied because they had some input into the plot. However, as Verge noted, “audiences may feel particularly jilted at not getting their way in a story that provides them with so many different options.” Furthermore, television is also used as a way to passively unwind so having to make selections along the way may feel less like co-creation and more like Netflix asking you “Are you still watching?” [The Verge]

5. Yelling at Alexa instead of the refs

Last week, the NFL launched “The Rookie’s Guide to the NFL” where fans (experts and rookies alike) can ask Alexa questions about players, rules and terms. Why should you care? As voice technology becomes increasingly present, brands will need to look to ways to extend content to smart speakers. It is not about providing more content, but instead rethinking how fans or consumers want to engage with the brand. For example, anything revealed on “The Rookie’s Guide to the NFL” can be found online. That’s not the point. As voice technology becomes easier to use, the habit of pulling out your phone and searching for something will transition to simply asking a digital assistant. It’s happening already. The brands who are proactively extending their content to audio platforms will be best positioned to engage with their customers as their natural tendencies change. [CNBC]

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