Amazon has patented a new technology that would empower Alexa to monitor users’ emotions, analyzing the pitch and volume of speaker commands, and respond according to how they’re “feeling.” As described in the patent, Alexa may come to recognize “happiness, joy, anger, sorrow, sadness, fear, disgust, boredom, [or] stress” and respond to commands accordingly, maybe with “highly targeted audio content, such as audio advertisements or promotions.”
Patents are not products, of course—but they can offer insight into how companies will approach emergent tech. In this case, the patent hints at new possibilities for dynamic targeted advertising in its always-on line of products. The patent lays out an example: Say you tell Alexa you’re hungry, and she can tell by the sniffle in your voice that you’re coming down with something. She can then ask if you want a recipe for chicken soup, or she can ask a question “associated with particular advertisers.” Perhaps Panera wants to tell you about its soups.
Targeted advertising has traditionally rested on demographics: Makeup is targeted to women, barbecues to men; acne medication to the young, heart medication to the old. Algorithmic profiling has since taken that much farther—advertisers can specifically target, say, single-mother heads-of-household under 25, or West Coast Democrats above 40.