In Vegas this January, Dan Emodi had an emotional breakthrough.

He was showing off a new product at the Consumer Electronics Show, doing back-to-back meetings and demos for days on end, promoting his company Beyond Verbal to anyone who would listen. Beyond Verbal's product is an unusual one, a program that listens to streams of audio and sends back a quick summary of the speaker's emotional state. The company has already used it as an enterprise product, outfitting call centers with an easy way to assess callers, but Emodi wanted to get the capability to consumers, moving to a larger stage than they'd ever seen before.

After a few days, the grind took its toll. At one late-afternoon demo, Emodi tried to project enthusiasm only to have the app spit back a fatigue reading, with undercurrents of loneliness. He didn't understand: "I said, 'I'm sorry, there must be a problem with our servers,' And I pressed the play button and I heard my voice and at that point I understood that the problem was not the app, the problem was myself. I was washed out."