One of the highly desired trait for technology companies these days is the ability to read human emotions. Most innovations are focused on making robotics and gadgets emotionally intelligent. Following the same passion, Amazon has recently filed a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office which will enable the Alexa devices to be emotionally smart. The voice assistants will analyze the user commands to detect illness and even depression and will recommend some related-medicines to the user.
According to the description of the patent, the upgrades will allow Alexa to detect ‘abnormal’ physical conditions like sore throats and coughs and also the psychological conditions like an excited emotional state or a sad emotional state through the given voice commands. The system will then assign these detections to their underlying conditions. Patent further states, “A cough or sniffle, or crying, may indicate that the user has a specific physical or emotional abnormality.” Once the issue or condition is determined, Alexa will then suggest the user some possible medicine which will cure the user.
Patent states, “A current physical and/or emotional condition of the user may facilitate the ability to provide highly targeted audio content, such as audio advertisements or promotions, to the user.” The patent has used the most basic example of a user with a sore throat to show its new feature. If a user is coughing or has a raspy voice, Alexa will most likely ask, “would you like to order cough drops with 1-hour delivery?” If the user replies with yes, Alexa will offer a cheerful and empathetic confirmation such as feel better. Before the feature is made available in the market, Amazon wants to guarantee that this will not violate users’ privacy rights.
Many technology giants were called to the Senate Commerce Committee hearing to be questioned regarding the consumer data privacy. Vice President and Associate General Counsel of Amazon, Andrew DeVore, was also present at the Senate to attend the hearing. Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation said, “Consumers deserve clear answers and standards on data privacy protection. This hearing will provide leading technology companies and internet service providers an opportunity to explain their approaches to privacy, how they plan to address new requirements from the European Union and California, and what Congress can do to promote clear privacy expectations without hurting innovation.”
To prove that an emotion-detection system is not violating privacy will prove to be a challenge for Amazon. The definition that the device will determine the user’s physical or psychological state without their consent is, in fact, their privacy invasion. Amazon might target only those users who want to enable the option in their systems and this case the question of consent will not be a problem.