They Can Hear You Now: Verizon Patent Could Listen In On Customers
WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Verizon has filed a patent for targeting ads that collect information from infrared cameras and microphones that can detect the amount of people and types of conversations happening in customers’ living rooms.
The set-top box technology is not the first of its kind – Comcast patented similar monitoring technology in 2008 that recommended content to users based on people it recognized in the room. Google TV also proposed a patent that would use video and audio recorders to figure out exactly how many people in a room were watching its broadcast. But details including the number of pets in the room or the physical size of people in the room can determine what types of pet food or body wash ads may be presented to the customers.
Verizon filed for the application in May 2011, but the documents were first uncovered by CBS DC last week due to laws stating that all patent applications be published after 18 months.
The Verizon patent gives examples of the DVR’s acute sensitivity in customers’ living rooms: argument sounds prompt ads for marriage counseling, and sounds of “cuddling” prompt ads for contraceptives. “Physical attributes” detected by the device’s sensors can also be used to target advertisements, with one example citing cosmetic and clothing brands that would be best-suited for the customers’ body size and height.
“If detection facility detects one or more words spoken by a user (e.g., while talking to another user within the same room or on the telephone), advertising facility may utilize the one or more words spoken by the user to search for and/or select an advertisement associated with the one or more words,” Verizon states in the patent application.
The patent goes on to say that the sensors would also be able to determine if a viewer is exercising, eating, laughing, singing, or playing a musical instrument, and target ads to viewers based on their mood. It also could use sensors to determine what type of pets or inanimate objects are in the room. The system can also “dynamically adjust parental control features” if it detects that young children are present in the room.
There are several types of sensors that can be linked to the targeted advertising system. These include 3D imaging devices, thermographic cameras and microphones.
Users are also given the option to link their smartphones and tablets to the detection system to directly increase its sensitivity.
“If detection facility detects that the user is holding a mobile device, advertising facility may be configured to communicate with the mobile device to direct the mobile device to present the selected advertisement. Accordingly, not only may the selected advertisement be specifically targeted to the user, but it may also be delivered right to the user’s hands,” the Verizon application states.
Verizon officials declined to comment to FierceCable about the patent application, but did release the following statement to CBS Radio in Washington: “Verizon has a well-established track record of respecting its customers’ privacy and protecting their personal information. As a company that prizes innovation, Verizon takes pride in its innovators whose work is represented in our patents and patent applications. While we do not comment on pending patent applications, such futuristic patent filings by innovators are routine, and whatever we might do in the future would be in line with our well-established track record of respecting our customers’ privacy and protecting their personal information.”