Amazon’s Echo May Be Able To Read Your Emotions


These categories are largely static. But if Amazon had a line of products that continually monitored us, responsive to every shift, the door would be open for devices to relate to us in a much more fluid way—responding to us based not just on who we are, generally, but who we are in any given moment. This is a boon for advertisers: Most of the time, I wouldn’t be interested in buying an Enya album—but if you ask me in the immediate, teary aftermath of an emotional text message exchange with a lover, I’d probably say yes. I may not go to Panera often, but if the idea is suggested to me when I am hungry and feeling sick, maybe I will.

Amazon isn’t the only technology company to pursue technology that takes full advantage of these emotional windows. Google has a similar patent, for a method to augment devices to detect negative emotions then automatically suggest advice. IBM has one that would help search engines return web results based on the user’s “current emotional state.” Searching for “good podcasts,” “football,” or “events near me,” for example, would return different results based on user mood, as determined via face recognition in the webcam, a scan of the person’s heart rate or—and this is where the “patents are not products” disclaimer must be emphasized most heavily—the “user’s brain waves.”

Spotify, meanwhile, is already practicing a type of dynamic emotional targeting all its own. Starting in 2014, it began associating playlists with different moods and events, selling ad space to companies based on the associations. An Adele-centric playlist may be a dead giveaway for emotional turmoil, so products associated with sadness (ice cream, tissues) would be recommended. A hip-hop heavy playlist might come with a “block party” association, and Spotify would suggest the playlist for a company advertising barbecue sauce, and so on.

The purpose of profiling is to sell products. Each of us are made up of dozens of marketable categories. Dynamic emotional targeting ups the ante: Now we are a collection of categories both stable (gender, age, residence) and in flux (mental and emotional states), and our devices are eager to hear all about it.

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