Untapped potential of Google and Amazon smart devices


Google’s and Amazon’s virtual assistants could become scary smart.

The tech companies have explored how smart speakers like the Google Home, Amazon Echo, and other devices could monitor more of what we say and do to target ads or product recommendations to us, according to their patent applications filed with the US government and reported by the New York Times (paywall).

Amazon and Google say their voice assistants currently only record and process audio after they’re triggered by a button or phrase like, “Hey, Alexa,” or “OK, Google.” Tech companies file many patent applications and sometimes nothing comes of them.

In one 2015 application, Google, which also owns smart-home device maker Nest, described a smart-home system that could be configured to identify emotions through “audio signatures of crying, laughing, elevated voices, etc.,” or send an alert when a child who was home alone got up to “mischief” based on whether the child was unusually quiet or active.

The tech giant—and world’s largest advertising platform—also outlined how a smart-home system with a camera could potentially recognize objects in one’s home, like a basketball or guitar, and serve up a related advertisement, in a separate 2015 patent filing. Another example detailed how an internet-connected device could recognize a t-shirt lying on the floor of a closet, identify the face on it to be that of actor Will Smith, check a browser’s search history to see if that person has searched for Smith recently, and then make a recommendation like,”You seem to like Will Smith. His new movie is playing in a theater near you.” Continued at QZ.com